In the tranquil province of Pailin, Vouch Thuch, a local craftsman renowned for his longan wine, is venturing into new agricultural territory by creating a new wine from the Kingdom’s popular Keo Romiet mangoes.

His latest initiative is not just about diversifying products, but also about addressing a significant issue: the wastage of unsold and overripe mangoes that typically rot away on farms.

In late March, Thuch embarked on the innovative project, using about 2 tonnes of mangoes to produce an initial batch of 2,000 bottles. 

The first batch is set to hit the market in October, after a meticulous fermentation process of four to five months. 

Thuch explains the efficiency of mango wine production, noting that “mangoes are easier to process and the wine takes a shorter time to make than longan, allowing us to filter them in August and have them ready for packaging after a month to a month and a half”.

This venture comes at a crucial time. Despite a steady market for ripe mangoes, demand often fails to keep up with the supply, leading to potential waste. 

Thuch points out the flexibility of the fruit as a raw material for wine production, saying, “The production of mango wine does not require aesthetically perfect mangoes as long as they are ripe and have good flesh”.

During times of low market demand, Thuch saws an opportunity to utilise these not-so-perfect mangoes, which are available at lower costs. 

Two bottles of the delicious mango wine, produced in Pailin province. Supplied

This not only helps in reducing waste but also provides a cheap source of raw material for his wine production. 

"We can choose large mangoes at a cheap price because of the current market conditions,” he tells The Post. 

The decision to produce mango wine was also driven by simple economic factors. Mangoes, being rich in flesh and easy to peel, offer a higher yield at a lower production cost compared to longans. 

Mangoes are currently very affordable, selling for between 200 and 300 riel per kilogramme. 

Thuch encourages local farmers to consider processing their mangoes into various products instead of letting them spoil. 

His own journey into fruit wine production started in 2008 with longans, spurred by a meeting with a Scottish expert who introduced him to grape wine vinting techniques, which he adapted for local fruits.

Pailin longan wine produced by Vouch Thuch, seen here with US ambassador W Patrick Murphy. Supplied

Thuch recently received a distinguished visitor at his establishment: US ambassador to Cambodia, W Patrick Murphy, paid a visit to Pailin Longan Wine Handicraft in July last year, where he was given a tour of the operation.

Thuch says Murphy showed great interest in the concept of transforming Pailin longans into wine, especially considering Cambodia's recent struggles with dwindling demand for its agricultural produce, exacerbated by the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Following his visit, Murphy took to Twitter to express his appreciation. 

“I had my first taste of longan wine today at the family-owned Pailin Longan Wine Handicraft. Congratulations to the young entrepreneur, Vouch Thuch, for getting this small business up and running,” he posted.

“Farmers in neighbouring countries process a wide range of products. Therefore, we in Cambodia should seek to process all of our produce to their full potential,” says Thuch.

He plans to expand his operation, although capital limitations confine him to a small-scale, family-level operation for now.

Thuch is currently preparing new wine bottles and luxurious packaging for his newest creation, and has set the retail price of his mango wine at $10.

“I implore all Cambodians to support local products, because if our craftsmen receive support, we will continue to develop. This process requires both money and effort,” he says. 

He also calls on government organisations and banks to provide better financial terms to encourage the processing of local agricultural products.

This move is especially pertinent given Cambodia's recent challenges in exporting fresh mangoes, which saw a significant decline due to many factors. 

In 2023, the Kingdom encountered hurdles in the export of fresh mangoes, as adverse weather conditions and challenges by pests resulted in a diminished harvest and quality of mangoes. 

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, Cambodia exported 91,687 tonnes of fresh mangoes in the first half of 2023, marking a 20.9% decrease from the 115,951.6 tonnes exported during the same period in 2022. 

Conversely, exports of dehydrated mango products surged by 43.4%, reaching 16,873.5 tonnes compared to 11,768 tonnes previously.

The Kingdom’s mangoes find buyers in various countries, including Vietnam, China, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, the US and the UK.

By turning potential waste into a valuable product, Thuch is not only providing a solution to a local problem but also adding a unique product to Cambodia's agricultural offerings, potentially increasing the economic resilience of local farmers and producers.