Cambodia's cassava and tapioca starch exports in the first quarter of 2023 reached $285 million, an increase of nearly 30 per cent over the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

From January to March, the export total for fresh cassava was 155,210 tonnes, of which 131,710 tonnes were shipped to Vietnam and 23,500 tonnes to Thailand.

Of the more than 14,701 tonnes of tapioca starch exported, a total of 14,642 tonnes went to China, followed by Japan with more than 25 tonnes, Italy at 17 tonnes and India at 17 tonnes.

During the period, 38,252 tonnes of cassava pulp was exported, of which 30,500 tonnes went to Vietnam, another 7,100 tonnes went to Thailand, and 652 tonnes went to China.

Heng Sith, statistics officer at the Battambang provincial agriculture department, said on April 27 that the bulk of the cassava exported in early 2023 had been harvested last year. He said farmers have to save “cassava seeds” – stem cuttings and tuberous roots used for cassava propagation – for planting next year, while cassava typically takes 10 months to a year to reach maturity.

“At the beginning of this year, Battambang province harvested only about 10 to 20 per cent of the total area of more than 100,000ha of cassava. The remaining cassava had been harvested the previous year.

“The cassava that farmers are still selling today is cassava seed, and only in small amounts. The current price of cassava chips is 600 to 700 riel per kilogramme,” he said.

Heng Sophoan, the owner of a silo in Battambang province, also said that her silo had stopped buying cassava chips for almost two months because of the scarcity of cassava in Battambang. And with the cassava shipped from other provinces such as Siem Reap and Oddar Meanchey, there are a lot of soil problems affecting quality.

“Since some of our farmers switched to growing corn, I bought less cassava from Battambang for my silo at the beginning of this year and exported less of it. In particular, the cassava chips in other provinces, like Oddar Meanchey and Siem Reap, have too much sand in them, making it difficult for us to export them to Thailand. As a result, I made the decision to cease purchasing them for almost two months,” she said.

Cambodia has a national policy on cassava for 2020-2025, developed under the inter-ministerial cooperation and support of development partners and approved by the government on August 14, 2020.

The national policy aims to make Cambodia a reliable producer and supplier of cassava products for export promotion to the world market, with three main goals: to shift from traditional cassava production or family farm-based, small-scale production to commercial cassava production.

The second goal of the policy is to support potential cassava processors and attract investment to the sector to process high value-added cassava products to supply the market. The third goal is to increase trade competitiveness through penetration and capture market share by linking to other export industries.