The Chinese government on Tuesday gave $400,000 dollars to the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) in Cambodia to invest in the country’s cassava industry, where exports of raw cassava jumped by 160 percent to 722,273 tons last year.
Signed at a workshop held between the UNDP as well as government officials from China and Cambodia, the agreement aims to improve the quality of cassava crops in Pailin and Kompong Cham provinces by training farmers in more advanced cultivation techniques and conducting studies on soil quality.
“Even though cassava has become the second-largest agricultural crop in terms of income, employment, hectares cultivated and exports, there is very little technical assistance support provided to the sector,” said Setsuko Yamazaki, deputy country director for the UNDP in Cambodia, adding that price distortions in neighboring countries and a lack of access to markets were a constraint for many cassava farmers in Cambodia.
In recent years, Cambodia has attempted to increase its export of agricultural products. In 2011, Cambodia’s Le Ye Rubber Co. signed a deal with state-owned China National Food Industry Group Corporation to export 1 million tons of raw cassava. That same year, the first cassava exports from Cambodia to China left from the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port.
Despite gains in the number of cassava exports from Cambodia—which primarily go to Vietnam, Thailand and China—Teng Lao, secretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, said Tuesday that many farmers in Cambodia still struggled to find a market for their crops. He also said that lack of investment in processing factories was taking away the opportunity for farmers to add value to their products.
“The problem is the same for rice. We can produce enough raw product but our ability to process domestically is still very limited,” he said. “This project will give us the techniques in growing and processing.”
According to the UNDP, Cambodia’s raw cassava export figures for 2012 could be revised upward by as much as five times if informal exports of cassava were documented.