Cambodia has resumed the formal export of processed cashew nuts to Japan following a nearly half-year hiatus due to regulatory issues on the Japanese side, according to the owner of the Kingdom’s sole exporter of the edible seeds to the East Asian market.

In collaboration with Japanese firm Top Planning Japan Co Ltd (TPJ), local processor-and-exporter Chey Sambor Cashew Nut Processing Handicrafts began shipping the nuts to the East Asian market last year, sending more than 45 tonnes as of March this year, including its last pre-hiatus consignment.

But then, Tokyo began requesting an additional certificate concerning quality and compliance with packaging standards, a requirement it had apparently waived in light of Covid-19, according to In Lay Huot, owner of Chey Sambor, which is based in southwestern Kampong Thom province’s Kampong Svay district.

She told The Post on September 21 that after complying with Tokyo’s requirements, Chey Sambor shipped 4.5 tonnes of cashew nuts to Japan on September 7, through TPJ. She clarified that only this latest batch was organic-grade, whereas all pre-hiatus consignments had been regular-grade, adding that her business would continue to export both types for the foreseeable future.

Although Lai Huot mentioned that future shipments could contain nuts of both grades, she could not confirm a proportion, or date, for the next consignment.

She confirmed that Chey Sambor sells organic cashew nuts to TPJ wholesale at an average of $16 per kilogramme, and regular-grade seeds at $10.50.

Despite the achievements chalked up by her business, Lai Huot affirmed that she is looking to adopt new technologies and practices to improve the production system and ramp up exports down the road.

Cashew nut Association of Cambodia (CAC) president Uon Silot sees the vast export potential of the nuts, especially in processed form, and emphasises that the Kingdom could reap in “billions of dollars” from sales overseas.

This may not be hyperbole: figures from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries show that Cambodia exported 937,974.26 tonnes of cashew nuts last year worth a total of $1.60487 billion, up by 328.34 per cent by tonnage and 233.32 per cent by value over 2020.

On the flip side, this means that, on average, one tonne of cashew nuts exported by the Kingdom in 2021 was worth $1,711, down 22.2 per cent year-on-year. Major markets included Vietnam, China, Thailand, India, Japan and South Korea, the ministry said.

Silot explained that a lack of investment in warehousing and processing facilities in Cambodia leads to tonnes of cashew nuts being exported to Vietnam each year in an unprocessed state – and hence of lower value. He suggested that more attention and encouragement to the sector would boost cashew nut production’s positive effects on household and national incomes.

However, with 2022 rainier than expected, the yields and quality of cashew nuts may fall below last year’s levels, he lamented.

“Cashew trees do not need much moisture.”

Silot previously commented that Chey Sambor would be the third enterprise to receive quality certification that would allow formal cashew nut exports to the EU, after Ample Agro Product Co Ltd and Welwilling Agricultural Technology (Cambodia) Co Ltd.

And as a precondition for export to Japan, Chey Sambor was certified as meeting the Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) for organic products by an Accredited Overseas Certifying Body, he noted.

Cashew nuts are widely grown in 10 of Cambodia’s 24 provinces, including Preah Vihear, Kratie, Stung Treng, Siem Reap, Kampong Thom, Kampong Cham, Tbong Khmum and Mondulkiri.

The untapped potential of cashew nut production has not escaped the eyes of the government. The Ministry of Commerce is working to develop and introduce a proper legal framework for the National Policy on Cashew Nuts for 2022-2027, to provide better access to export markets and improve the reputation of Cambodian-made products.

Key objectives of the six-year national policy include reinforcing Cambodia’s capacity to grow, store, process, package, market, distribute and export cashew nuts and derived products, and establishing the Kingdom as a major producer and supplier regionally and globally.