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Cashew sector pared down as farmers change crops

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A worker holds freshly picked cashew nuts on a plantation in Kampong Cham province’s Batheay district. Heng Chivoan

Cashew sector pared down as farmers change crops

Cashew nut production in the Kingdom declined by more than 50 per cent in the three years leading up to last year, as farmers followed the market by switching to other crops, figures from the Ministry of Agriculture indicate.

Data from the general directorate of agriculture shows that Cambodia produced 295,791 tonnes of cashew nuts in 2014 with exports reaching 270,696 tonnes.

However, production and exports dropped year by year. Last year, production dropped to 142,773 tonnes with total exports standing at just 73,179 tonnes, a decline of 51.73 per cent and 72.96 per cent respectively compared to the previous three years.

The main markets for the Kingdom’s cashews are in Vietnam, China and India.

The director-general of the general directorate of agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture Hean Vanhan said on Sunday that the decrease indicated instability in the sector as farmers were switching to others crops as they pursue market demands.

“Our data indicate that farmers are not confident in their cultivation, they like to switch to other [crops] when they see the potential for more profit or higher demand in the market."

“Farmers do not know how to plant crops based on technical plans to reach their own market. This is the reason why most farmers are failing to achieve proper cultivation,” he said.

The Ministry of Agriculture is trying to promote the cashew industry by encouraging farmers to gather into cooperatives and find contract farming opportunities, Vanhan said, adding that the government has also sent experts to work with farmers to get higher yields at lower cost.

“If farmers could set up cooperatives, they will get a lot of benefits and be profitable through contract farming. While we cannot ensure prices in a free market, we can ensure that production will reach the buyers through contract farming,” he said.

Cashew Nut Association director in Kampong Thom province, Chhiv Ngy, said it is still searching for reliable buyers to bring price stability.

Ngy agreed that most farmers don’t understand new techniques that can help them ensure quality, which is also why they find it so hard to add value to their products.

“Some farmers harvest early, even if the fruit is not ready. Many don’t know about technical aspects and maintenance so it is hard to get a higher price."

“We prefer to push for contract farming, but until now no contract farming has been done through the association. Our products are only sold to brokers which don’t bring us a good price,” he said.

The Kingdom’s cashew nut industry is still struggling to maintain a stable foothold in the market as community representatives continue to claim that relying on local brokers is hurting farmers.

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