Cambodian cassava producers are joining hands with Chinese-owned Global Ecological Rice (Cambodia) Co Ltd to improve and maintain access to one of Asia’s largest markets for the edible starchy tuberous roots, ensure ample supplies of the locally-grown produce, and ratchet up the Kingdom’s agricultural exports.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) designed to pave the way for subsequent contract farming arrangements was penned to this end on March 11, by Cambodia Safety Vegetable Union of Agricultural Cooperative (CSVUAC) chairman Chua Makara and Global Ecological Rice boss Zhai Muqi at a ceremony presided over by Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries undersecretary of state Pak Samay Sunit.

“Contract farming” refers to entry into pre-harvest agreements between buyers and farmers on agricultural production with established conditions, generally regarding product types, prices, quantities, quality and other standards.

At the event, CSVUAC’s Makara hailed the MoU as the “fruitful result” of negotiations and as representative of the common interest of Cambodian farmers.

“We’re both willing to work together and enhance direct Cambodian agricultural exports to China. This will also contribute to maintaining stability, securing profits for all parties, and especially ensuring the stability of agricultural markets for farmers,” he said.

Zhai recapped that the positive results of a survey on cassava varieties and cultivation sites in Cambodia conducted by Global Ecological Rice in collaboration with a tropical research institute in China’s Guangxi region – most likely the Guangxi Subtropical Crops Research Institute (GSCRI) – received the green light from Beijing to proceed with the deal.

The agriculture ministry’s Samay Sunit expressed confidence that the MoU would provide significant boosts to local cassava production and export, the financial security of farmers, and the broader agricultural sector.

“Large companies investing in Cambodia means that growth in agricultural production will usher in a better understanding of the value of one’s own produce, and that it has a market,” he said.

Cambodia earned nearly $3.070 billion from agricultural exports in the first 10 months of 2022, data based on exporters’ invoices released by the agriculture ministry showed.

Future sales to the regional markets of China and South Korea are widely expected to be buoyed by duty-free access under key trade pacts that took effect last year.

In January-October 2022, milled-rice exports were to the tune of $435.408 million, weighing in at 509,249 tonnes, marking a 10.67-per-cent or 49,080-tonne year-on-year increase. By contrast, paddy exports amounted to $492.903 million, or 2.440 million tonnes – down 8.27 per cent or 219,878 tonnes.

Non-rice items clocked in at $2.142 billion or 4.670 million tonnes, up 10.63 per cent on-year from 4.221 million tonnes, the ministry reported, listing major items as: tapioca starch and cassava chips and pulp; raw and processed cashew nuts; corn kernels; mung beans and soybeans; fresh bananas; fresh and dried mangoes; oil palm (in fresh fruit bunches, or FFB); peppercorns; tobacco; and “assorted vegetables”.

The “assorted vegetables” category consists of cucumber, cabbage, choy sum, broccoli, cauliflower and similar, and excludes popular Cambodian crops that may be considered vegetables in the culinary sense. Notable examples of excluded items are: legumes including mung beans and soybeans; grains such as corn and rice; spices like peppercorn and chilli peppers; and cassava.