The Battambang Provincial Administration has said it will continue to buy Ta Ngen and Kra’op (fragrant) longan directly from farmers till September 13, in an extension of a purchasing initiative meant to offset market stresses created by Covid-related export problems.
Longan – also known by the botanical name Dimocarpus longan – is a tropical evergreen tree species native to Asia that produces white-fleshed edible fruit of the soapberry family, which also includes lychees and rambutan.
The administration noted in a September 3 statement that Covid-driven obstructions facing exports to Thailand had resulted in significant hardships for longan growers and plantation owners, highlighting the Ta Ngen and Kra’op (fragrant) cultivars of the fruit in particular.
The provincial departments of Commerce; and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries are jointly working with the relevant district administration to keep buying longan.
The administration said it had designated the Veal Bek Chan football field next to the 5th Military Command headquarters in Romchek 4 village of Ratanak commune in Battambang town as the location for all government purchases from the longan farmers.
Pailin Longan Association (PLA) vice-chairman Suon Chum welcomed the announcement, but wishfully called on the administration to keep buying the fruit until the end of the harvest season.
According to the PLA, the harvest typically occurs from August to end-December, peaking in November.
Regardless, Chum was firm in his stance, injecting a sense of urgency in efforts to prevent tonnes of longan from going to waste.
“As far as I am concerned, if the government does not help to buy longan from farmers during these tough times, they will not be able to secure a sale anywhere, particularly now that the harvest is revving up, especially so in November,” he cautioned.
There have yet to be any positive indication for a reopening of market access to the neighbouring country, he lamented, merely conceding: “Export to Thailand in the coming months may not be as bright as usual.”
The Cambodian longan export market has been mired in uncertainties since mid-August.
Beijing banned Thai longan over August 13-17 over fears of mealybug contamination, a short-lived embargo that had a knock-on effect on Cambodian longan exports to Thailand.
Cambodian longan typically makes it on the Chinese market via Thailand, where it is first shipped, and then repackaged and sold to China mixed in with Thai produce.
In response, Prime Minister Hun Sen on August 18 launched a government purchasing initiative, as part of a broader campaign to buy longan directly from farmers in the seven provinces bordering Thailand – Koh Kong, Pursat, Battambang, Pailin, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear.
He also tapped Hing Bun Heang, deputy chief of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office, as chairman of the team tasked with overseeing the government initiative and ensuring that as much fresh produce is bought as possible.
Over August 17-30, Bun Heang managed the purchase of 2,000 tonnes of longan, arranged to be distributed to the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, the military police, the National Police and healthcare workers at quarantine centres throughout the country, according to the Battambang Provincial Administration.
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon has said longan cultivation has reached 13,608ha nationwide, of which 7,000ha will be harvested this season, expected to yield about 110,000 tonnes. One tonne sells for around 1.8 million riel ($440).
The trees yield an average of between seven and 30 tonnes per hectare depending on crop maintenance.