Japanese firm Top Planning Japan Co Ltd’s (TPJ) apparently interested in investing facilities in Battambang province to convert cashew nut shells into fuel and process the fiber-rich seeds for export. It has been attracting among local authorities and has dramatically heightened prospects for commodity that is predominantly shipped to Vietnam in raw form.
TPJ boss Tetsuo Murayama touched on these tentative plans at a meeting with Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) director-general Heng Ratana at CMAC headquarters on February 8.
Murayama commented that although Cambodia can be seen as a major cashew nut producer, with annual output in excess of one million tonnes, much of their economic potential is wasted as the bulk of the drupe seeds are sold to Vietnam, unprocessed.
The Kingdom may be able to export over USD 1 billion worth of – mostly – raw cashew nuts in a year, but TPJ could in theory process a portion of that, and push up the figure as high as USD 3 billion, he asserted, hinting that Battambang had been selected as the home for the proposed facilities due to CMAC’s demining efforts over there.
The company’s support will add value to the Kingdom’s cashew nuts by ensuring the financial wellbeing of local farmers, he claimed.
Cashew nut shell liquid (CNSL) is a by-product from industrial processing that can be converted into a renewable, biodegradable and cost-effective biofuel, which is seen as an environmentally friendly replacement for petro-diesel. The biofuel too is often called CNSL.
TPJ is also working with Chey Sambor Cashew Nut Processing Handicrafts in southwestern Kampong Thom province’s Kampong Svay district to process cashew nuts for export to Japan.
Battambang provincial Department of Agriculture director Chhim Vachira suggested that increases in cashew-nut cultivation, processing and packaging capacities in the northwestern province have positive correlations with job creation and farmers’ selling prices.
Key objectives of the national policy include reinforcing Cambodia’s capacity to grow, store, process, package, market, distribute and export cashew nuts and products thereof, and establishing the Kingdom as a major producer and supplier regionally and globally.
Cashew nut Association of Cambodia (CAC) president Uon Silot opined that underlying constraints of the current legal and policy framework have kept the cashew nut sector’s potential from being fully unleashed, despite its sizeable contributions to the economy, leading to sub-optimal investment inflows and perceptible signs of neglect.
He believes the national policy’s tax perks and other benefits for industry players will woo a wider pool of local and foreign investors into the cashew nut scene. The policy will “reduce trade barriers and enable farmers to sell directly to factories at better rates than to brokers”, he said.