Cavendish bananas: the crop that beat the Covid-19 heat

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There are now around 20 registered companies that grow bananas in Cambodia for export to China.

While Covid-19 has bruised economies and crippled trade in some parts of the globe, Cambodian banana growers are enjoying brisk business despite choppy times.

One pioneer local industry player, Tropicam Irrigation Solutions Co Ltd – along with its Chinese partner Longmate Agriculture Co Ltd – has been busy exporting Cavendish bananas to China.

The demand for Cambodian Cavendish bananas has risen beyond expectations since mid-2018, said Tropicam CEO Lor Ngy.

“The company’s operations have been unaffected by the Covid-19 pandemic. We can even say that, with banana consumption in China having increased during the Covid-19 outbreak, business was even better because we are involved in fruit exports.

“We were exporting 250 tonnes of bananas per week, but during the coronavirus outbreak we exported 300 tonnes per week.

“I observed that the Chinese market was good in 2018. There were only five companies from Cambodia that exported bananas to China, but now there are around 20 registered companies with the cooperation of Chinese investors to cultivate the crop in the Kingdom and export it to China,” Ngy said.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Tropicam CEO Lor Ngy.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Cambodia exported 72,182 tonnes of fresh Cavendish bananas during the first quarter of this year, while 157,812 tonnes were exported in 2019. The fruit was mostly exported to China, Vietnam and Japan.

Cambodia’s tropical climate and substantial rainfall makes it perfect for year-round banana cultivation. In 2018, Longmate announced that it was to invest $32 million to grow the crop in some 1,000ha in Kampot province’s Chhouk district.

“The reason for choosing Kampot province for planting bananas is because of the location – the soil is fertile, there is an abundance of water and the weather is not too hot. We import Cavendish banana seeds from Australia and plant them in Cambodia where they grow well.

“It is difficult to grow bananas in China because some areas are too cold and some are too hot, so many foreign investors invest in banana plantations in Cambodia for export to foreign markets,” Ngy said.

As well as bananas, Ngy said Tropicam also plans to increase its mango exports to China by the end of this year.

“We have some mango plantations and have cooperated with the local community to collect mangoes to export to the Chinese market by this month, but we export through the Vietnamese border,” he said, adding that they expect to export 100 tonnes of mangoes a day.

“We are proud to be able to export agricultural crops and contribute to the national economy. The government earns income through tax collection, and we also provide employment to more than 800 farmers, which reduces migration to neighbouring countries,” Ngy said.