Cambodia exported 95,028.38 tonnes of fresh bananas in the first quarter of 2023 – ended March 31 – of which 88,947.92 tonnes or 93.60 per cent went to the Chinese market, according to a General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA) report.

Shipments of the fresh tropical fruit also went to Vietnam (6,060.7 tonnes; 6.38%) and Japan (19.76 tonnes; 0.02%), said the GDA, which is under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. No value or year-on-year comparison figures were provided.

However, Hun Lak, an agriculture industry veteran behind mango and banana cultivation and export operations, affirmed to The Post last week that Cambodian exports of fresh bananas to China had recorded significant increases in early 2023, on the back of Beijing’s removal of Covid-19-related restrictions.

The removal of Covid-linked barriers to shipping to China will make the process easier, hence exports of fresh bananas to the economic powerhouse are expected to increase, he surmised, listing milled rice, cassava and mangoes as other key Cambodian agricultural exports to the Chinese market.

“Factoring in the high demand on the Chinese market and the good cooperation between the two countries, the export of fresh bananas and other agricultural products to China will increase,” he said.

Lak pointed out that the Kingdom’s formal export destinations for fresh bananas are limited to just the region, and include China, Vietnam and Japan.

A ministry report indicated that Cambodian exports of agricultural products other than rice totalled $919.694 million in the first quarter of 2023.

The government and private sector are looking to develop formal export channels in Europe. Agriculture minister Dith Tina recently visited France accompanied by private sector representatives to gauge market demand for fresh bananas in that country.

Regarding the trip, Lak commented that “we want to know whether we can export fresh bananas to the French market or not. From which countries does France import bananas? Can the French themselves grow bananas? How’s the quality? How are the prices?

“If we ship [bananas there], how will [they] be delivered? Also, what are the hygiene and phytosanitary requirements? These are things we need to study in detail before deciding to export bananas to the French market,” he said.

Cambodia formally exported its first batch of fresh bananas to China in May 2019.

In the first 11 months of 2022, Cambodia exported a total of 345,470.2 tonnes of fresh bananas, down 12.73 per cent from the same period in 2021, according to the ministry.