Cashew nuts are consistently in high demand in both the domestic and overseas markets. According to figures from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, in the first five months of last year, Cambodia exported 801,732 tonnes of cashew nuts to foreign markets including Vietnam, Thailand, China, India, Japan and the UAE.

Sensing an opportunity as well as seeing increasing demand, 28-year-old Him Sideoun, the owner of a cashew farm in Kampong Thom province, shared her experiences on what it is like to own and run a cashew nut business.

Tell us about yourself and describe your business?

I have long had the ambition to be a successful agricultural business entrepreneur, with my husband and I first getting into agriculture with one hectare of land for dry-season paddy rice.

The business was doing well, and we expanded our land to 10 hectares, until a lack of water supply made us experience some difficulties and postpone our business for a while. In 2017, there was a rising demand for cashew nuts in our province, Kampong Thom, which grabbed our attention, and opportunities arose for us in the cashew nut business.

What were the main factors behind you turning your attention to the cashew nut business?

We first got into the cashew nut business due to the opportunities from the high demand in both the domestic and overseas markets. A sharing session from the Cashew Nut Association of Cambodia aroused our interest, and we started to look into the cashew nut business and understand more about it.

Cashew nuts don’t need as much attention as other plants or crops – in the early stages, it requires full attention to regular watering and fertilising. But once the plant is mature enough, we only need to take care of it three times during its season.

After a few years, our cashew nut yields increased from four tonnes to 20 tonnes on our 10 hectares of land, with the average price 5,000 riel per kilogram based on the purchase season.

As it is highly in demand, the market for cashew nut is on your doorstep – there will be a large factory coming to regularly collect from your farm for domestic and international supply.

In the last few years of growing cashew nuts, we have expanded our land to almost 20 hectares – and demand is still growing rapidly.

What challenges have you encountered?

Pests and insects are our main concern, but we believe this is also a concern for most agri-businesses. To deal with it, we had to learn about the growing process and understand more about cashew plants, as well as about fertilisers and pesticides. For example, experimenting with different types of fertiliser for use on my plants to bring high yields.

And then you have to regularly spend on fertiliser, manure and pesticides throughout the growing process. Cash flow is one of the concerns during this process, and we luckily received support from our family besides Amret providing us with their flexible working capital loan for our expansion needs.

Without reliable support and effective cash flow management, it is difficult to maintain a business.

As a woman entrepreneur, what advice do you have for female agri-business owners looking to expand?

Running a business takes effort and commitment. Do not be afraid to get your hands dirty and step outside your area to explore the wider world of agriculture.

Fluctuations in demand may be different each year, but business success doesn’t come overnight. Don’t lose hope – patience and effort every day can lead to a fruitful future.