As Cambodia’s corn harvesting season gets under way, high demand from Thailand is keeping prices robust, but a poor start to the rainy season has cut yields significantly and killed of many crops, farmers and traders said.
Chum Kroeun, a farmer in Pailin province, Cambodia’s principal corn-growing hub, said a lackluster start to the growing season in April meant his 2.5 hectares of farmland had only produced about 12 tons of corn, compared to around 17 tons during the same period last year.
“This year the price is better but the yield is down,” he said, explaining that growing demand in Thailand, where stocks are currently low, had sent prices up by as much as 60 percent.
Whereas last year corn fetched about 3 baht, or around 9 cents per kilogram at the current exchange rate, it is now reaching upwards of 5 baht, he said.
But many farmers have been unable to take advantage of the rise in prices, with their crop having failed due to drought.
“This year I did two rounds of planting because the drought destroyed my first crop,” said Khuon Beb, a farmer in Pailin province.
He added that the additional costs from losing his first crop would mean he would only just break even, despite healthy demand from Thai traders and a rise in prices.
Phan Pich, provincial director for the department of Agriculture in Pailin province, said that farmers had planted corn on 20,000 hectares of land this year and that about 2,000 hectares had been destroyed by drought and disease. He added that Thai traders were showing particular interest in Cambodian corn this year as corn yields in Thailand were also down.
Chhoeu Vichai, a middleman who buys from Cambodian corn farmers and transports it to Thailand, said he was purchasing one kilogram of corn for 3.6 baht last year but was paying 5 baht this year.
“The corn market is good this year. It may be because Thai farmers can’t grow well and their stock is empty,” he said.
But in the future, he said, prices may start to come down again as farmers are forced to sell unripe corn in order to meet demand and earn money.
“Some farmers harvest unripe corn for sale and the traders will mark the price down,” Mr Vichai said.