PHNOM PENH, May 21 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia launched Tuesday the second phase of cassava development project under the support of China and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Speaking at the launching ceremony, Teng Lao, secretary of state of Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, said the second phase of the project, which will last until September 2014, was made possible with the funding of 400,000 U.S. dollars from China. "It aims to help a core group of cassava farmers, processors and exporters to meet the quality and quantity requirements to be able to export more processed cassava to China, thus generating more revenue and employment opportunities for Cambodian smallholders in rural areas,"he said.
Cambodia and China signed a Protocol on the Exports of Cambodian Cassava to Chinese Market in December 2010, under which China allowed Cambodia to export its standardized cassava chips to China.
Teng Lao said cassava is the second agricultural crop in Cambodia and plays a very important role in Cambodia's agriculture and economic development.
He said last year, the country grew cassava crop on an area of 337,440 hectares, producing about 8 million tons of fresh cassava. "About 50 percent of fresh cassava, 40 percent of dry cassava and 10 percent of cassava powder were sold to Vietnam and Thailand, "he said."And Vietnam and Thailand re-sell those cassava products to international markets, particularly China."
Agriculture official and project coordinator Ratana Norng said the cassava sector might generate between 200-300 million U.S. dollars worth of"informal"export revenues a year.
Lu Zhouxiang, first secretary at the department of international trade and economic affairs at China's Ministry of Commerce, said at the event that in the first phase of the project, China had contributed 212,000 U.S. dollars to support 30 Cambodian officials to train in China's Hainan province on the cassava cultivation techniques in late 2011 and early 2012.
"Based on the successful results of the first phase, the second phase project will help move Cambodian producers, processors and exporters of cassava up the value chain," she said."It is our hope that this project will contribute to the Cambodia' s efforts in capacity building, economic diversification and poverty reduction. "
Setsuko Yamazaki, country director of UNDP to Cambodia, said that currently, Cambodian cassava farmers, processors and exporters are facing enormous constraints such as price distortions in neighboring countries, lack of information on price and quality criteria of importing markets and lack of access to technology. "Though cassava has become the second largest agricultural crop in term of income, employment, hectares cultivated and exports, there is very little technical assistance support provided to the sector,"she said.
She added that under the project, UNDP would give particular attention to environment sustainability of cassava cultivation, improved standard quality to promote raw and processed cassava exports to China and the ultimate benefits and sustainability for the poor.
Setsuko said Cambodia is now the seventh largest producer of cassava in Asia and projected that the country would move to the fifth largest producer following Thailand, Indonesia, India and China by 2018.