The Ministry of Commerce and relevant institutions looking to speed up the preparation of the draft National Policy on Cashew Nuts for 2022-2027 to submit for government review in the near future.
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.
Commerce ministry secretary of state Reach Ra on March 3 led a virtual workshop on the progress and potential of the Cambodian cashew nut sector, the ministry noted in a statement later that day.
Ra instructed the ministries, institutions, development partners and private sector actors involved to keep pooling resources and pick up the pace of work on the six-year policy, to address some of the troubles dogging the sector today.
“Feedback provided by representatives from the pertinent ministries and institutions … in the discussion and exchange of views on the potential, market and data of the Cambodian cashew nut sector is key to input gathering, to fully complement new advancements made in the preparation of the draft national policy on cashew nuts, before being submitted to the Cabinet.
“[This is] especially so for [officials from] the agriculture ministry and customs general department, and representatives of the Cashew nut Association of Cambodia [CAC] and the private sector,” he said in the statement.
CAC president Uon Silot told The Post that the private sector expects the policy to firmly prop up the cashew nut market to new heights, explaining that when enacted, the government would provide more credit to farmers to assist in the processing of the crops.
But now with cashew apples ripening across the Kingdom’s orchards signalling that the harvest season has arrived, things appear not to be quite so sweet for the sector.
Silot claimed that between 10-30 per cent of the trees in cashew orchards across the 10 primary producing provinces have been seriously damaged due to unseasonal rains in mid-February and other climate change-linked phenomena.
“Our farmers stand to face tonnes of losses – firstly, yields are declining due to climate change. Secondly, the rising costs of fertilisers, pesticides and fuel could put growers at greater risk of financial pitfalls amid a lack of stability in cashew nut prices. In addition, the [export] market depends solely on Vietnam, with prices set at their discretion,” he said.
With the market rate of raw cashew nuts at 4,000-5,000 riel ($0.98-1.22) per kg, similar to last year, and the prices of fertilisers, fuel and other inputs quickly soaring beyond their reach, growers can only hope for slim profit margins, as a considerable share will likely break even or lose money, he said.
Nok Bunthon, a grower and president of the Kampong Thom Cashew Nut Association, said that due to dramatic weather changes, the fruit on his trees were barely beginning to set, whereas in most years the harvest would be well on its way.
“Were we to have collected them earlier, they could have been sold at a bit higher fare – which could’ve been more than 5,000 riel per kg – but seeing as my cashew nuts are just setting in, they won’t be able to be harvested until April, and by then prices may experience erratic falls,” he said.
But Bunthon remains optimistic for the cashew nut market after the 2022-2027 policy is adopted. He also called for more investment in cashew processing plants, saying that only two of the four factories in the country are currently under operation.
Citing unofficial data compiled by the association, Bunthon said cashew trees are grown in 10 provinces – on an area of about 800,000ha.
Last year, Cambodia exported more than 910,000 tonnes of cashew nuts – marking an increase in excess of 343 per cent over 2020 – over 900,000 tonnes of which were shipped to Vietnam, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reported.