Japanese-owned company “TPJ” plans to spend an unspecified amount to build two large-scale cashew nut processing plants in Kampong Thom and Kampong Cham provinces in 2022-2025 aims to increase exports to Japan and other markets, according to Cashew nut Association of Cambodia (CAC) president Uon Silot.
Silot told The Post on January 13 that TPJ – presumably Top Planning Japan Co Ltd – had received approval from its parent company in Japan to build the plants back in 2020, after completing studies on the proposed locations, each of which covered an area of 6ha.
But then Covid-19 hit, putting a wrench into plans, he said.
The two neighbouring provinces were likely chosen due to the large area under cashew nut cultivation, which could provide an easy source of seeds for the plant, he speculated.
“I’ve already prepared the site for construction, but because of Covid-19, that’s been suspended. Once the pandemic eases, the company may break ground this year or next,” he said, adding that the firm plans to process 20,000 tonnes of cashew nuts annually, at each factory, for export to Japan.
While Cambodia once again ranked among the top cashew nut exporting countries last year, the overwhelming majority of exports comprised shipments of raw seeds to Vietnam, weighing in at 1.1 million tonnes, according to Silot.
Although 40,000 tonnes of finished cashew nuts would hardly put a dent in global demand, he suggested that the facilities could encourage development in the Kingdom’s emerging value-added processing sector.
“Our cashew nut association’s goal is not to export raw nuts, if we do so we’ll lose out. We’d lose out on value-added options for farmers first of all, and secondly, we’d lose labour in the community.
“With a factory in the country, we could help farmers and reduce the number of outbound migrant workers,” Silot said.
In Lai Huot, owner of the Kampong Thom-based cashew nut processing business Chey Sambor, explained that the Cambodian cashew nut export market is improving, with numerous companies looking to place orders, especially those from Japan.
She eagerly told The Post that her enterprise over the next couple of years would seek to co-invest in factories or other projects that could expand that market.
“As far as I know, TPJ does plan to set up those large factories in Cambodia over 2022-2025. The company has not placed any major orders with us as of late, although maybe we can team up next year to export cashew nuts,” she said.
She surmised that the main underlying motives behind the factories was to lend a hand to build the reputation of Cambodian cashew nuts on the international stage, help farmers lead a better life, and provide job opportunities for locals to curb migration.
The CAC’s Silot said there are “nearly 10” cashew nut processing plants online in the Kingdom, paling in comparison to Vietnam’s “more than 100”.
He said he has asked the relevant officials to streamline investment application procedures to make it easier for foreign investors to set up new cashew nut processing plants, to scale up exports and generate employment opportunities for locals, thereby reducing the number of migrant workers.