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Gov’t lends a hand for local durian cultivation

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A man looks at durians growing at his farm in Kampot province. Hong Menea

Gov’t lends a hand for local durian cultivation

The Cambodian government is developing a policy to expand the cultivation of durian, as the fruit garners increasing support on the domestic market, and mapping out a long-term export strategy to pursue in due time.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon on May 29 said durian cultivation is booming in Cambodia, buoyed by an increasing recognition for the pungent fruit's quality and safe production practices and operations.

The ministry is also preparing plans and a set of objectives to expand the cultivation of durian and other fruit with commercially viable domestic and international markets, he said.

He added that the government will develop the necessary infrastructure to facilitate processes at all stages of production for durian and other fruits, and organise farmers' cooperatives to boost production in line with market standards and requirements.

"Nowadays, some people cultivate durian in accordance with the agriculture ministry's guidelines, especially small- and medium-scale farmers, because they have the ability and budget for investment as real commercial businesses," he said, adding that other farmers merely grow durian for family consumption or for leisure, without consideration for the proper techniques.

Sakhon said the government will also encourage the private sector to increase investment to boost production chains and increase supply to the domestic market and for export, and set up the Cambodian Agro-Industrial Federation to support, encourage and promote agricultural development, agro-industry and agribusiness in Cambodia.

The federation will, among other things, set up breeding and production stations for seeds of durian and other popular fruits that provide farmers with easy access to domestic and foreign markets, and train growers in modern pre- and post-harvest cultivation techniques in accordance with safety standards to meet the requirements for export, according to the minister.

Khim Bunleng, founder of the “King of Durian” shops in Phnom Penh and durian farmer in Kampot province, welcomed the ministry’s approach to the cultivation and marketing of Cambodian durian, saying its plans will likely bring in more investment in the future.

“This is some great news … I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” he told The Post on May 30: “This plan will make us durian growers feel cosy in our efforts to maintain the right technique. I will work with the agriculture ministry on this work.

Cambodian durian currently retails for 26,000-28,000 riel ($6.50-7) per kilogramme, he said.

“In the future, I hope our durian will be exported abroad,” Bunleng said.

The minister noted that if grown at a large scale by families as part of a cooperative, durians will be able to generate more revenue for the national economy. While the spiky fruit could potentially bring in large amounts of revenue, it requires a lot of investment, the right techniques and close care to be successful.

“The price of domestic durian is higher than imported ones and there are no market obstacles due to high demand, so farmers could earn a lot of income, at about $10,000 to $20,000 per hectare [each year] by cultivating durian and following the correct technical standards to get good yields,” he said.

Durian is grown on 5,289ha, of which 3,403ha (64 per cent) are mature, yielding 36,656 tonnes per year, according to Sakhon.

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