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Cashew nuts see 5% spike in price at harvest season

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A woman sorts through a pile of cashew nuts at a processing centre in Kampong Thom province on December 20, 2013. Hong Menea

Cashew nuts see 5% spike in price at harvest season

Cashew nut prices saw a five per cent drop compared to last year due to more supply than demand at the beginning of the harvest season in Kampong Thom province – the Kingdom’s largest regional producer of the nut – according to provincial authorities.

Kampong Thom provincial Department of Commerce director Srun Heng said prices fluctuated due to increasing yield and quality.

“Supply being greater than demand and the cashew nuts’ quality are the main issues dictating the price,” he said.

Heng said while Cambodia has good cashew nut production potential, there should be a processing factory as it would stabilise prices in the sector.

“We can ensure [good] prices for farmers. We should at least have a processing factory – it’s better than merely selling raw material to brokers,” he said, adding that despite many companies studying investment potential in the Kingdom’s cashew nut sector, no ventures have materialised.

Cashew nut prices currently start at 5,000 riel ($1.26) per kg compared to 6,000 to 7,000 riel last year, according to Heng.

Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture and the Vietnamese Cashew Association (Vinacas) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) last year to increase Cambodia’s cashew nut exports to one million tonnes by 2028.

Vinacas also provided the ministry a $66,000 grant to support the same target.

‘No help from Vietnam’

However, no official deal has been made with Vietnamese companies through the MoU, according to Suy Kokthean, vice-president of the Cashew Nut Association of Kampong Thom province.

“We have not heard anything about any official deal or technical assistance from Vietnamese firms,” he said.

He added that prices are currently unstable, with farmers unable to ensure quality due to a lack of technical support.

“We already have a huge potential for cashew nut production but the shortage of technical farming awareness remains a challenge, with farmers unable to grasp quality and standards issues,” he said, adding that the association has more than 300 members.

The area allotted to cashew nut cultivation totals 149,660ha, spanning 22 provinces. Almost 60 per cent is harvested land, which yielded 116,343 tonnes last year, according to Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries figures. The data shows Cambodia exported 73,000 tonnes in 2017.

Cambodia can produce one tonne of raw cashew nuts per hectare of cultivated land while Vietnam can yield more than two tonnes.

The Switzerland-backed non-governmental organisation, HEKS/EPER, announced last year it launched a five-year $7.8 million development project for cashew nuts in Cambodia, with the goal of improving the livelihoods of rural families.

The project, which will be implemented between 2018 and 2022, is expected to boost food security, income and land management for poor communities. The project will be implemented in seven provinces – Pursat, Kampong Chhnang, Prey Veng, Tbong Khmum, Kratie, Mondulkiri and Stung Treng.

Chhay Leang, owner of 100ha of cashew nut producing land in Kampong Thom province, said this month is the first of the harvest season, adding that cashew nut prices have decreased compared to last year.

“Cashew nut yields are good, but prices are not the same as last year,” he said. “It is hard to speculate about market prices, as we still depend on brokers to bring our supply to the Vietnamese market.”

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