The Agriculture Ministry has instructed local farmers and producers to rethink their mango supply chains, as coronavirus-related economic disruptions have sent the price of the fruit plummeting during peak season.
Mango prices dropped by 60 percent from last year due to reduced orders for export as consumer spending has nosedived amid the Covid-19 pandemic, pushing some mango-processing businesses to temporarily suspend operations, the ministry said in a directive on Friday.
Prices of the fruit fell from 800 riel ($0.20) per kilogram last year to 320 riel ($0.08) per kilogram this month, and orders from processing plants were also down, according to the directive.
To withstand the fall in prices, the ministry ordered provincial and local authorities to work with the private sector and development partners to chart out a production plan, suggesting that stakeholders help connect farmers to new markets or train them to produce higher-value products, like dried mango or syrup.
The directive also asks officials to form collective production groups of farmers and collect data on the cost of mango production so the ministry can create a more specific plan in the future.
Agriculture Minister Veng Sokhon said farmers should join production collectives initiated by local officials, stating that farmers did not need to limit the number of mangos they contribute to the group and would not have to pay to register.
“If we create a group, we can stabilize the supply and distribute based on when and who has their products first,” Sokhon said. “That’s why we want to create a community to manage our supply.”
Cambodia exported more than 58,000 tons of mango last year to China, Thailand, Vietnam and other nations in Asia, Europe and North America, with the Commerce Ministry considering ways to diversify Cambodian mangos’ destinations and products, state news outlet AKP reported in February.
Last month, the World Bank forecast that Cambodia’s GDP growth this year could drop to 2.5 percent amid the Covid-19 downturn, since the nation’s key industries — tourism, garment manufacturing and construction — are highly dependent on international demand and investment. However, the report also noted that efforts to diversify the agriculture sector and rural households’ incomes, as well as boost agroprocessing, could help Cambodia’s poorest overcome the financial crisis, at least in the medium term.
Tong Chantheang, executive director of the Cambodia Center for Study and Development in Agriculture, said the country’s mango exports were damaged by a dip in global demand, causing processing factories to temporarily close businesses and leaving farmers with surplus stock. She urged the government to step in and strengthen the agriculture sector, or risk putting serious strain on farmers’ fragile incomes.
“If their income decreases, other sectors will decrease too,” Chantheang told VOD. “Those who will be most affected are our farmers because they have little resources and most farmers have borrowed money from banks.”
Khiev Savoeun, a farmer in Kampong Thom province’s Santuk district, said mango prices in her village had dipped to 200 riel ($0.05) per kilogram, but no officials had reached out to assist farmers there yet.
Savoeun said she supported the ministry’s plan to register farmers in a collective production program and connect farmers with markets. She said she hopes they can establish higher prices so she can continue to support her family.
“I ask the government and related establishments to help and buy the products that people have already made, and train them how to process their products … so they can sell at a higher price,” Savoeun said.
(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)