CHEA Savun knows a thing or two about jackfruit. The 56-year-old farmer has been growing the distinctive fruit in the village of Treng Tra since 1999.
With his wife, Nou Phanna, 54, he manages an 80-hectare plantation for their absentee landlord, who lives in Kandal province. “We keep the profit from all the jackfruit we sell,” Chea Savun says.
In total, the couple have about 200 trees, including some mango trees. The jackfruit is sold in Phnom Penh and throughout Cambodia, as well as to factories where it is packaged and sold as dried fruit.
“Jackfruit is very popular in this area,” Nou Phanna says. “Here, the jackfruit is organic. We don’t use any chemicals, and the land is very good.”
The couple grow two types of jackfruit: Khmer and Malaysian. Khmer jackfruit do not begin to produce fruit until March, but Malaysian jackfruit are bountiful all year around.
“When we harvest fruit from Malaysian jackfruit trees, they begin to produce fruit immediately,” Nou Phanna says. “With Khmer jackfruit, we have to wait until the next season.”
The Malaysian variety is also more lucrative. It sells for 1000 riel a kilogram, whereas Khmer jackfruit fetches between 600 and 700 riel a kilogram.
“Malaysian jackfruit are popular because they have a lot of meat and they can be processed in factories,” Nou Phanna says.
This year doesn’t promise to be as productive as previous ones for jackfruit, however.
“This year, there is less jackfruit than before,” Chea Savun says.
“We haven’t had much rain, so when the trees started producing fruit they were damaged a lot.”
Nou Phanna supplements her income from growing jackfruit by making thatched roofs.
“They [customers] buy roofs to cover chicken cages and restaurants and guest houses,” she says.
Despite the lack of any indication that the roofs are for sale, Nou Phanna has no problem selling her products.
“We just make the roofs, and people come here to buy them,” she says. INTERPRETER: RANN REUY