The newly-launched Cambodia Cashew Federation (CCF), combined with the upcoming National Policy on Cashew Nuts for 2022-2027, is expected to boost exports of the popular kidney-shaped nuts, keeping annual totals above $1 billion each year, observers have said.

The CCF was formally inaugurated on October 10 as the Kingdom’s apex cashew nut industry body, at its “foundation assembly” held in the capital.

Key objectives of the policy include reinforcing Cambodia’s capacity to grow, store, process, package, market, distribute and export cashew nuts and derived products, and establishing the Kingdom as a major producer and supplier regionally and beyond.

Speaking while presiding over the event, Ministry of Commerce secretary of state Mao Thora commented that the government has set the agriculture sector as a driving force for economic growth, and highlighted cashew nuts as an important export item.

Thora stressed that well-advised initiatives to promote the agricultural sector yield both economic growth and ensure food security, a domain in which he claimed Cambodia continues to have noteworthy potential.

He said his ministry designed the national policy to encourage investment in the cultivation and processing of cashew nuts as well as develop and improve export capacity, with input from government leaders and experts, the private sector and partner organisations.

“This policy will soon be adopted to meet the needs of growers, processors and exporters, coinciding with the emergence of the newly formed CCF,” he said.

The draft cashew nut policy is set to be reviewed at inter-ministerial meetings on October 13-14, and is expected to be submitted to the Council of Ministers, or Cabinet, before the next plenary session, Thora revealed.

An Dara, founder of Ample Agro Product Co Ltd, a major agricultural company that also processes cashew nuts, underscored the importance of the CCF and national policy to improving the overall cultivation, processing and export capacity for the nut of the perennial tropical Anacardium occidentale, which is native to Brazil.

However, although cashew nuts command greater prices on international markets than milled or paddy rice, a lack of investment in processing and packaging in Cambodia means that about 90 per cent of the domestic crop is bought by traders to sell in Vietnam in its raw form, resulting in millions of dollars’ worth of missed opportunities in terms of value addition, he explained.

Dara expects the CCF’s efforts to draw in large-scale investments in cashew nut processing to cut down on the export of raw nuts. “I am confident that more Cambodian cashew nuts will be shipped out to international markets, as their quality and taste are already recognised,” he said.

He shared that raw Cambodian cashew nuts fetch about $1,200 per tonne in Vietnam. Although not immediately able to cite a source, Dara claimed that the Kingdom in total harvests “no less than one million tonnes” of cashew nuts each year.

For reference, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reported that Cambodia exported 937,974.26 tonnes of cashew nuts last year worth a total of $1.60487 billion, up by 328.34 per cent by tonnage and 233.32 per cent by value over 2020.

This means that, on average, one tonne of cashew nuts exported by the Kingdom in 2021 was worth $1,711, down 22.2 per cent year-on-year. Major markets included Vietnam, China, Thailand, India, Japan and South Korea, the ministry said.

Similarly, the Cashew nut Association of Cambodia reported that the Kingdom has about 7.2 million hectares of agricultural land this year, some 700,000ha of which is under cashew nut cultivation.