July 4, 2023
PHNOM PENH – Longan exports to mainland China for the main 2023-2024 harvest season are expected to increase “five-fold” year-on-year, a key industry figure has claimed, following reports suggesting a total above 5,400 tonnes for about five of the previous season’s nine months.
Phot Saphanborey, “board director chief” of Pechenda Fruit Production PFP Co Ltd, a company that cleans, processes and packages agricultural products, defines the main annual harvest season as September to the following May.
To recap, longan on October 27 became the third Cambodian fruit to be formally exported directly to China in fresh form, after bananas and mangoes, following months of inspections and other preparations.
A tropical evergreen species native to Asia, the longan tree is also known by its botanical name, Dimocarpus longan. It bears white-fleshed edible fruit that is a member of the soapberry family, which also contains lychees and rambutan.
The most well-known variety locally is the Pailin longan, named after Cambodia’s second-smallest province by area, which borders Chanthaburi and Trat in Thailand.
The General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA) reported that Cambodia formally exported 3,422.25 tonnes of fresh longan to China in the first three months of 2023, while Pailin Longan Agricultural Production Cooperative (PLAPC) president Suos Siyat said formal exports of “Pailin longan” to the East Asian country between October 27 and December 22 topped 2,000 tonnes.
No figures were immediately available on longan exports to mainland China for the April-May period.
Nonetheless, the GDA – which is under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries – says that there were more than 18,000ha devoted to Pailin longan cultivation in 2021, which can produce 131,000 tonnes per annum.
Speaking to The Post on July 3, PFP’s Saphanborey asserted that, with nearly a year of experience and preparation, the industry could manage to deliver a five-fold increase in the volume of longan exports to the Chinese market in the coming harvest season.
Although unable to immediately provide figures, he stated that longan production’s contribution to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) is growing, and voiced optimism for an uptrend in prices for the soapberry.
Booming longan demand has led growers to step up production, including those who had abandoned the crop, he claimed, sharing that PFP pays $800 per tonne for the fruit through contract-farming arrangements, up from $600 a year earlier.
However, “that price is likely to fluctuate significantly at end-August once the Chinese drop orders for Cambodian longan”, Saphanborey said, noting that the locally-grown fruit can sell for an average of nearly $2 per kilogramme in mainland China, although issues such as shipping costs and delivery times can greatly affect quality and prices.
He also referred to South Korea and Taiwan as “markets of interest”.
The PLAPC’s Siyat also mentioned how growers are expanded longan production and taking better care of trees, motivated by the possibility of exporting the fruit to China. However, he noted that the overall quality of this season’s fruits has fallen short of expectations due to this year’s reduced rainfall levels.
“This year, exports to China will undoubtedly increase, although the quality of the longan grown in some areas may not be as good as it was last season,” he said, noting that the fruit is also exported to neighbouring countries.
For reference, Chinese authorities in general only consider a single fresh fruit at a time per country to import. However, after longan, a formal decision on the fourth fruit to be exported to China in fresh form has yet to be made.
Still, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Dith Tina has mentioned potential contenders to present to Beijing for formal negotiations, such as the fragrant coconut, durian, pineapple, jackfruit and lotus seed. He also suggested that edible bird’s nest, a delicacy in Chinese cuisine, could also be on the table for export talks.
Tina was speaking at the October 27 ceremony marking the inaugural direct formal exports of fresh Cambodian longan to China, which he hailed as a “long way forward for Cambodian agricultural products”.
On the global market, the 2021 total export and import values for fresh longan were $4.19 billion and $4.13 billion, respectively, up 18.92 per cent and 15.82 per cent year-on-year, according to Seoul-based Tridge.
The top 10 exporters were Canada ($443.6M; up 3.08%), Thailand ($378.2M; up 47.25%), Poland ($267.8M; up 21.70%), Peru ($241.4M; up 7.75%), Malaysia ($233.7M; up 95.45%), Chile ($233.0M; up 10.07%), the US ($198.0M; up 15.78%), Netherlands ($153.1M; up 16.27%), Serbia ($137.8M; up 14.28%) and Mexico ($134.7M; up 0.41%). All percentage changes are in annual terms.
Similarly, the top 10 importers were the US ($855.2M; up 20.93%), China ($590.6M; up 49.58%), Germany ($330.9M; up 10.41%), France ($239.4M; up 14.77%), Canada ($199.3M; 17.82%), Netherlands ($184.4M; up 17.09%), Japan ($181.9M; up 13.39%), Poland ($148.3M; up 16.76%), Australia ($143.7M; up 1.37%) and the UK ($119.2M; down 3.28%).