Pailin Longans Meet Standards for Export to China

Cambodia expects to export around 100,000 tons of longans from Pailin Province to the Chinese market each year after the sanitary quality inspection was finally concluded successfully on Jan. 6.Photo from Chinese Embassy in Cambodia

Farmers in Pailin Province are now awaiting the official documentation allowing their longans to be exported to China—a much needed market for the embattled farmers

PHNOM PENH--Cambodia expects to export around 100,000 tons of longans from Pailin Province to the Chinese market each year after the sanitary quality inspection was finally concluded successfully on Jan. 6.

Ngin Chhay, director of the General Directorate of Agriculture of the Ministry of Agriculture, said that Cambodia is only waiting for China to approve exports now, which he said he expects will happen quickly now that the longans have been found to meet China’s standards.

Between Jan. 4 and Jan. 6, the Ministry of Agriculture engaged in video calls with the China Customs Administration where the two sides evaluated the quality and the price of Pailin Province longans.

According to Chhay, the China Customs Administration performed a risk assessment, checking longan farms in Pailin and Battambang provinces, as well as packaging facilities in Pailin and Kampong Speu provinces.

“The China Customs Administration concluded that our Pailin longan farms are in excellent terms that might meet the standards to export to China. However, Cambodia still needs improvement in some parts,” he said.

Now, he added, Cambodia is waiting for the China Customs Administration to prepare the technical export protocol documentation.

“If they get back to us soon, we will prepare technical export protocols to sign for exporting. On the other hand, we must wait if it takes them longer to answer us,” Chhay said.

The development offers little in the way of an immediate solution for Pailin Province’s longan farmers, who have seen a dramatic reduction in income following a ban on Cambodian longan imports from the Thai government. Many farmers have seen the potential of exporting to the Chinese market as the saving grace, but the process has been beset with delays, which Cambodian officials have previously attributed to the Chinese side.

While negotiations between Cambodia and China have dragged on, farmers in Pailin Province have reported losing tons of longans after having lost access to the Thai market.

Sreng Sreang, a longan grower and member of the Pailin Longan Farmers’ Community (PLFC), said that after Thailand’s border closed, he sold his longans to the markets in Phnom Penh, but he was forced to sell below market rates and lost a lot of money in the process.

The plight of longan farmers has attracted the attention of Prime Minister Hun Sen, but his intervention to support out-of-pocket farmers and to expedite negotiations with the Chinese have so far done little to change the fate of the longan growers.

Sreang said that the change in buyers has presented a number of problems, adding that he’d lost more than 200 kilograms of longans due to poor preparation on behalf of the new buyers in Phnom Penh.

“We did not grow the longans well, so the harvest teams only took the good quality ones ranking from No. 1 to No. 4 in accordance with the companies’ requirements. So, there were many we had to throw away under the longan trees,” he said.

However, he said he still holds out hope that the Chinese market will see his business pick up again.

“Using the techniques to grow longans in line with the export standards of China, we can gradually learn [to grow longans] better. This is our hope and our strength: There is nothing better than Pailin longans,” he said.

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