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Boosting the Cashew Industry in Cambodia: A Strategic Move Towards Economic Growth

by Surya Narayan
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Cambodia is charting a bold course in the agricultural sector with a keen focus on enhancing its cashew industry, as outlined in the ambitious National Policy on Cashew 2022–2027. This strategic initiative aims to elevate the country’s status in the global cashew market by significantly increasing cashew production, establishing more processing facilities, diversifying export markets, and streamlining trade facilitation programs.

Expanding Processing Capacity

A notable goal of the policy is to expand Cambodia’s cashew processing capacity from a modest 5% to an impressive 25% by 2027, with aspirations to reach at least 50% by 2032. This expansion is crucial for the country to move up the value chain by processing more raw cashews domestically rather than exporting them for processing abroad. Currently, over 90% of Cambodia’s raw cashew nuts are sold to neighboring countries, such as Vietnam, Japan, and China, with Vietnam being the primary buyer, accounting for nearly 95% of the exports.

Infrastructure Development

To achieve the 2027 target, the country anticipates the establishment of around 50 new medium-sized cashew processing facilities. This is a significant increase from the current infrastructure, which comprises 30 small-scale and three medium-sized plants located in Kampong Thom, Kampong Cham, and Preah Vihear provinces. Such development not only promises to enhance domestic processing capabilities but also aims to create jobs and stimulate local economies.

Cashew Production and Export Trends

Cambodia’s journey in the cashew industry has been marked by notable achievements and challenges. The country exported 600,000 metric tons of cashew nuts in 2019, and this figure rose to 950,000 metric tons in 2020, showcasing a robust growth trajectory. However, the sector faced setbacks in 2021 due to adverse weather conditions, which impacted the output, leading to a reduced export volume of 670,000 metric tons.

Despite these challenges, Cambodia has emerged as a significant player on the global stage, being recognized as the largest cashew producer worldwide in 2021, contributing to 24% of global production. This places Cambodia ahead of other key producers like the Ivory Coast, India, and Vietnam.

Potential for Growth

With approximately 700,000 hectares under cashew cultivation, Cambodia holds vast potential for further development in this sector. Kampong Thom stands out with the most extensive plantations, covering 150,000 hectares. Moreover, the agriculture ministry has identified about 2.38 million hectares of land as suitable for cashew cultivation, indicating the immense scope for expansion and growth in this industry.

Cambodia’s strategic focus on its cashew industry through the National Policy on Cashew 2022–2027 presents a promising avenue for economic development and growth. By increasing domestic processing capabilities, enhancing production, and exploring new markets, Cambodia is setting a solid foundation for a sustainable and profitable cashew industry. This endeavor not only aims to boost the country’s economy but also to improve the livelihoods of local farmers and communities involved in cashew cultivation and processing. As the country progresses towards its ambitious targets, the global market watches closely, anticipating Cambodia’s rise as a key player in the cashew industry.

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