In the first half of 2023, Cambodia witnessed a steep plunge in red corn exports, totalling just 18,053 tonnes, marking a stark 78.74 per cent drop over the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Ministry spokeswoman Im Rachna said a combination of erratic market conditions and the impacts of climate change have been catalysts for the decline in crop production.

“The quality and yield of our crops have been affected,” she noted.

Rachna further highlighted issues concerning the unauthorised export of the crop. This includes the lack of necessary phytosanitary certification and undocumented transactions carried out through Vietnamese and Thai trade channels.

Pailin and Battambang provinces have reportedly just started procuring red corn kernels from local farmers.

Ry Savinh, the proprietor of Ry Savinh Silo, said her facility began purchasing red corn from farmers on July 5, as the harvest gradually commenced.

“This year, our purchase volume might be less than usual as farmers’ yields have been hit by drought, resulting in damaged and less fruitful crops,” she said.

Savinh added that despite these setbacks, her facility continues to sell to Thailand and local firms, providing a reasonable price for high-quality corn.

While her silo typically procures between 10,000 and 20,000 tonnes each harvest season, Savinh anticipates a potential drop this year.

“We remain hopeful for better weather that would foster improved corn growth, hence a later harvest,” she remarked.

Similar apprehensions have been voiced by Em Sophoan, owner of Hing Sophoan Silo in Battambang province. According to Sophoan, farmers have pivoted from cassava to corn cultivation, hoping for better market opportunities.

However, drought and falling prices have made for a challenging season.

“The current Thai price is declining daily. We’re concerned about the Thais lowering prices even further, making it tougher for us to purchase from our farmers,” Sophoan shared.

She underscored the challenges in raising capital if farmers refuse to sell due to low prices.

Sophoan also noted an increase in corn cultivation compared to the same period last year, as farmers deem it more marketable than cassava. Purchasing periods can span a month or more, contingent on the farmers’ harvest schedules.

Last year, Cambodia’s red corn exports to Thailand and Vietnam had soared to 172,890 tonnes, as per a report from the agriculture ministry.

This year’s falling figures bring into focus the nation’s twin challenges of weather and market dynamics.