Wednesday, 29 July 2015
PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Cambodian farmers want to grow more cashews in response to rising prices. But lack of information and resources is holding them back. This year, cashew prices jumped to $1 per kg, compared to $0.75 per kg one year ago, according to Siv Ngy, president of Cashew Nut Association in Kampong Thom, in central Cambodia. He said this year, farmers in his area are responding to market signals and trying to plant cashews on land that they had been left fallow. Some want to replace existing crops with cashew trees. "World prices for cashews have been rising steadily over the past five to 10 years, and this trend is likely to continue," said Andrew McNaughton, an international and rural livelihoods consultant and cashew specialist.But many Cambodian farmers do not know how to plant, graft or take care of their trees, said Mr. Siv. “Some farmers don’t have clear vision for increasing the productivity,” Mr. Siv said. “They plant cashew trees because they just see other people get benefits. But they cannot get what they want, because planting cashew tree is not easy.”Farmers who have adequate knowledge can harvest from three to four tons per hectare. But those without expertise only get one ton per hectare or less. In comparison, Vietnamese farmers can harvest about seven tons per hectare.
Kampong Thom is one of Cambodia’s major cashew producing provinces, with 20,000 hectares cultivated last year. Other major producing provinces are: Mondulkiri, Ratanakiri and Kampong Cham. Most cashews are grown by smallholders.Five years ago, Cambodia’s total cashew cultivation area was 69,000 hectares, according to Khan Saban, director of the industrial crops department at the Ministry of Agriculture. Since then, the planted area has increased, but more recent figures are not available. Mr. McNaughton said that Cambodia grows between 60,000 and 100,000 tons of cashew nuts per year, a crop now valued at up to $130 million. Planting new crops is a long-term commitment. Cashew trees take between five to seven years to start producing nuts. New, high-yielding varieties only take three to five years and have better quality nuts. Quicker turn-around is possible by grafting high-yield varieties onto older trees, but few Cambodian farmers have the expertise to do this. Mr. McNaughton said that perhaps only 20 percent of the cashews grown in Cambodia come from high yield strains. “We have a big cultivation area, but cannot produce more effectively from it,” Siv Ngy added.
Rising prices come from increasing demand for cashews in China, South Korea, India and other countries. Almost all Cambodian cashews are exported to Vietnam, which has facilities to process them. Vietnam is the world’s largest processed cashew exporter. Cashew nuts are harvested between February and May. After harvest, three quarters of the nation’s cashews are exported.The rest are dried, which increases their value by lowering the moisture content. Dried cashews can be sold any time during the year.Experts say most traders operate at a commune or district level before selling to larger traders. Traders are mostly Cambodians and Vietnamese, but some Chinese and Indian traders also operate here.
Lack of Support
Kampong Thom’s Cashew Nut Association complained of insufficient assistance from the government and called for a clear policy to help associations and farmers. “The government has assisted our association and others, but it’s just on paper – it cannot implement,” Siv Ngy said. “We need more action, rather than saying on paper.”Mr. Saban countered that the government is doing the best it can with limited funds. “Actually, government really tries to help farmers and associations for growing and exporting,” he said in an interview. “But honestly, we cannot satisfy them because we lack human resources and money.”