Despite cassava prices tripling year-on-year, some farmers in Banteay Meanchey province’s lower-lying areas are seeing their potential profits drown alongside hectares of the profitable crop, as floods have swept across the Thai-Cambodian border region in recent weeks.
Cassava prices in Cambodia increased about 350 percent earlier this month compared to the same time last year after a mealybug infestation destroyed much of Thailand’s $1.5 billion cassava crop in July and reduced available supplies. Earlier this month, farmers reported receiving about 2,250 baht, or about $75, per ton, compared to 500 baht in October 2009.
Mealybugs also destroyed about 100 hectares of cassava in Banteay Meanchey in July as well.
Phon Sophea, a farmer in Banteay Meanchey province’s Thma Puok district, said yesterday that his five-hectare cassava crop was wiped out after being submerged for just a few days. The damage resulted in a loss of $3,000 in expected profit plus the money invested to plant the crop.
It was the second time this year Mr Sophea has seen his cassava crops hurt at the hands of nature.
“In February and March, the cassava was destroyed by drought,” he said. “We planted again and it was good but now it’s been destroyed by the flood. It is bad this year.”
Nin Sinuon, a farmer in Svay Chek district, said flooding had destroyed at least half of her two-hectare cassava farm. Because of rain, she said she expected to harvest the other half early, which would also reduce its value. The price for the crop was down about a third to roughly $50 per ton, she said.
Run Sophanara, chief of the agronomy and agricultural land improvement office at the provincial agriculture department, said floods had affected 1,835 hectares of cassava throughout the province. He said it was still too early to determine how many hectares have been destroyed.
Yang Saing Koma, director of the Cambodian Center for Study and Development of Agriculture, said mealybugs were no longer a significant threat to cassava.
“This is not a problem,” he said. “Especially after the rain. During the early season, it was very hot and dry. When the rains came, there was no more problem.”
(Additional reporting by Drew Foster)