Cambodia's fresh banana exports to regional markets in the first quarter of the year have improved compared to 2022, mainly due to the lifting of Covid-19 lockdowns in China – the Kingdom’s biggest market – and a reduction in shipping costs, said Longmate Agriculture CEO Hun Lak.

Lak, who recently accompanied agriculture minister Dith Tina to the Paris International Agricultural Show – one of the world’s largest fair – revealed that exports totalled 59,200 tonnes in February, more than doubling from 28,600 tonnes a month earlier.

“The 2022 decline was due to China’s lockdown and shipping problems, as China is Cambodia’s largest market. However, banana exports were able to move forward and began to recover in 2023. Bananas are popular with the Chinese people,” he said.

Lak noted that Cambodian banana exports have reached the regional level – exporting to China, Vietnam and Japan – but have yet to enter the European market.

The late February-early March visit to the International Fair in Paris gave the agriculture minister and the private sector a chance to explore opportunities in new markets.

“On this visit, we wanted to learn if we can export our bananas to the French market. We needed to know if they are producing them or importing them, and if so, what prices they are paying. Naturally, we also need to get acquainted with their sanitary requirements. Once we have studied these things in depth, we will make a decision about trying to enter the market,” he added.

Mao Thonin, the governor of Kampot province – where banana plantations are concentrated – recently said that local authorities and specialist departments has provided support to private companies that utilise land concessions from the state.

“Those companies are now pushing for more cultivation. If their operations continue to go well, I hope to see them expand, with the full participation of the surrounding communities,” he said.

He added that the expansion of Kampot’s banana plantations will provide additional income to the people of the province, as they are an ideal labour market for the growing industry.

Cambodia exported 367,400 tonnes of fresh bananas in 2022, representing a decrease of 13 per cent from 2021 figures. Around 330,000 tonnes were exported to China, more than 36,000 tonnes to Vietnam and more than 2,800 tonnes to Japan, according to Longmate.