A newly-greenlit proposal for a mango processing plant in southern Kampong Speu province’s Choam Sangke commune has ignited hopes among the private sector for a boost in exports in finished products made from the edible stone fruit.
This comes as reports indicate that the quality and quantities of fresh mango exports have fallen short of expectations in early 2023, which has been largely attributed to weather-related factors.
The Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) – the government’s highest decision-making body for large-scale investments – on April 27 announced that it had approved Cambodian Golden Fruit Trading Co Ltd’s $26 million mango processing project, which is set to be located on a 3ha plot in Ta Ney village of Kampong Speu’s Phnom Sruoch district that is expected to generate 1,450 jobs.
The Ministry of Commerce’s business registry shows that Cambodian Golden Fruit Trading was incorporated on October 28, 2022, and lists a single officer for the company, “Liu Xinliang”, with postal registered office address in eastern China’s Shandong province.
Hun Lak, an agriculture industry veteran behind mango and banana cultivation and export operations, affirmed that erratic weather patterns have “slightly” driven down exports of fresh mangoes in early 2023, compared to the year-ago period. By contrast, however, exporters of processed mango goods have not faced any significant issues so far this year, he claimed.
Another main factor explaining the decline in fresh mango exports has been the knock-on effects of the exodus of plantation owners and growers from the crop amid Covid-19-related restrictions in China last year that complicated import procedures and led to drops in prices for the fruit, he added.
Lak believes that Cambodian Golden Fruit Trading’s new venture could help tackle the typical annual mango supply gluts reported during the harvest season, as well as lead to better market value for the crop.
“The number of mango processing factories in Cambodia will increase further,” he stated, sharing that the Kingdom’s exports of processed mango products have been “steadily increasing” in recent years.
He opined that opening mango processing facilities now will also require additional investment in the cultivation of the fruit, adding that proper variety selection, quality maintenance, and accurate market demand information are indispensable to maximising the benefits of the crop.
In ASEAN, such processing plants are abundant in Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam, Lak said, noting that these countries are among middlemen traders’ preferred destinations to sell their stocks of fresh Cambodian mangoes.
Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng remarked that the number of companies investing in the Kingdom continues to rise, despite the series of crises that have threatened the global economy over the past three-to-four years.
The high potential of the Cambodian agricultural sector presents opportunities for investors, in areas such as cultivation, procurement and processing, he said.
Agricultural processing plants are sorely needed in Cambodia, he said, explaining that its historically limited capacity has forced the Kingdom to export a substantial share of its produce in raw form, to neighbouring countries to be turned into finished products.
Heng contended that such plants could go a long way in ensuring fairer prices and markets for farmers.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA), Cambodia exported nearly $1.385 billion worth of agricultural products in the first quarter of 2023, to 53 markets.
The January-March exports weighed in at almost 2.595 million tonnes, the GDA reported, suggesting a per-tonne average of $533.59.
Broken down by category, overseas sales of non-rice items over the three-month period accounted for the lion’s share at $919.694 million or 66.43 per cent, followed by paddy ($313.864 million; 22.67%) and milled rice ($150.977 million; 10.90%).
The GDA did not provide year-on-year comparison figures, although it reported around the same time last year that the Kingdom exported 3.434 million tonnes of agricultural products worth $1.269 billion to 57 markets in January-March 2022, or a per-tonne average of $369.41.