Apr 1, 2009

China considered as export market for unsold cassava

Written by Kay Kimsong
Phnom Penh Post - Phnom Penh, Cambodia Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Thai protectionism is protectionism is leading to oversupply of Cambodian cassava, forcing farmers to push for exports to China CAMBODIA is looking to the Chinese market for its cassava product, as Thai subsidies have undercut Cambodian exporters in Thailand, a foreign trade official said Monday. The Commerce Ministry will soon send a group of trade officials to China to study prospects for breaking into the potentially lucrative Chinese market.

"We don't worry about rice exports, but our cassava product is a problem," admitted Thon Virak, deputy director general at the Foreign Trade Department.

He said Cambodia produced over 2 million tonnes of cassava in 2008 and was expected to produce the same in 2009.

When Thailand started subsidising cassava farms in January, demand for Cambodian cassava fell dramatically.
The result could be hundreds of thousands of tonnes of unsold product, farmers said.

Cambodia has two processing factories that turn dry cassava into flour, which can be used for anything from fertilisers to skin creams.

The two factories - one outside of Phnom Penh and one in Kampong Cham - can produce a million tonnes of dry cassava a year.

The rest of the crop needs to be exported.

Cambodian factories are incapable of processing raw cassava. Previously, farmers would sell their wet cassava to Thailand, but the price has fallen so low that only processed cassava is economically viable.


We don't worry about rice exports, but our cassava product is a problem.


Since January, the news has not been all bad for Cambodian cassava farmers. Thon Virak said the price of dry cassava increased from US$75 per tonne in January to $125 per tonne in late March.

At the same time, Cambodia is hoping to use Chinese technology to set up a new, higher-capacity processing factory, hopefully increasing domestic demand for the product.

Kasie Noeu, an agriculture researcher and chairman of the board of directors at the Peace and Development Institute, said cassava growers need to be patient and should not give up on growing the crop.

He said that farmers should create a cassava growers association to increase bargaining leverage and market their product as a collective.

Riding out the storm
Kasie Noeu pointed to corn and cashew crops five years ago as a lesson. In 2004 farmers abandoned their crops due to low prices, only to see prices jump in 2007.

"I see the price of cassava increasing in the next few years," he said.
"This [price decrease] is a trick the market plays."

But that's little solace for farmers struggling right now. Agriculture tycoon Te Haing, who grows 1,000 hectares of cassava in Banteay Meanchey province, said he expects 900,000 tonnes of unprocessed cassava to go unsold this year.

"We all sit around and wait for a market for our product, but we can't sell it because of the low price of wet cassava in Thailand," said Te Haing

Te Haing called for the government to take quick action to help farmers. Otherwise, some of them would abandon their cassava crops, he said, adding that a drying factory for wet cassava needed to be built in Banteay Meanchey province.
This, he said, would keep the cassava sector in Cambodia afloat.

"If we can sell wet cassava for just $50 a tonne, we will survive," he said.
"Farmers are suffering without the Thai market," he added: "We need help."

Vedan at it again

Thanh Nien Daily, 31 March 2099, Ho Chi Minh City,Vietnam

MSG and starch maker Vedan has admitted to polluting a north-central river just six months after authorities caught the company spewing waste into a southland river.
A Vedan Vietnam cassava starch processing plant in the north-central province of Ha Tinh has been discharging untreated wastewater into the Rao Tro River, the factory’s director admitted over the weekend.

The Taiwanese-invested company, based in the southern province of Dong Nai, began test running the new facility on February 11, with plans to bring it to full operation by November.Upon opening the test run, nearby residents immediately began complaining of pollution in the river and terrible odors coming from the factory.

Tuoi Tre spoke with the plant’s director, Truong Vinh Chu, last weekend.

Initially, Chu denied allegations that the facility was responsible for pollution in the river.

It wasn’t until Tuoi Tre escorted the director to the site of a wastewater drain running directly from the factory to the Rao Tro River that Chu admitted his company’s culpability in the matter.

“I apologize and promise to repair this immediately,” he said at the canal connecting the plant to the river.

He said the canals had been designed to drain rainwater and that it was a “mistake” that wastewater was flowing into the river.

“We’ll repair it before starting our [full] operations,” he said.

What’s that smell?

Chu said he was aware of residents’ complaints about air pollution just after the factory began its test run.

“I am not confirming or denying it [foul odors caused by the factory in residential areas],” he said. “Processing cassava emits certain smells that our experts tell us are not at all harmful to local residents.”

A resident from Ky Son Commune was very unhappy about the stench.

“I thought it was a dead rat in my house but I couldn’t find it.”

Another resident said he thought the smell was pig’s dung.

Local residents said the odor was worse on hotter, sunnier days. They dubbed it the “Vedan Ha Tinh Smell.”

“It’s a really terrible smell that has tortured us around the clock for more than a month,” said a resident from Ky Son Commune.

Residents in nearby Ky Lam Commune, on the opposite bank of the Rao Tro River from the Vedan plant, were also frustrated.

“The stink has invaded the area,” a local said. “Our air used to be so clean and pure because we’re located next to the forest.”

Downstream in Ky Lac Commune, locals complained their formerly fresh air and water were turning rancid.

“The river is dirty and we’re worried because fish have begun dying since the factory opened,” a resident said.

At one section of the river near the factory, a three-centimeter layer of foamy, muddy substance covers the shoreline. A local resident removed some of the substance to show Tuoi Tre the cassava waste underneath.


Environmental authorities in Ha Tinh Province said on Sunday their inspectors had already investigated Vedan’s local facility.

The inspectors found two wastewater storage pools dug into the ground at the cassava starch factory, both of which were connected to the canals leading to the river. Inspectors said these could also have been the cause of the foul stench.

Nguyen Doan Sang, director of the province’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment, reported the information to the media alongside Hoang Viet Thanh, the environmental police chief of the police department.

The officials said that in addition to the wastewater pools, the foul odors may have been caused by improper cassava drying facilities.

The inspectors have reported their findings to the Ha Tinh People’s Committee.

Tran Minh Ky, the committee’s deputy chairman, said last Saturday that the body would make a decision on the matter this week.

He also said the company should follow the environmental commitments it made when it was licensed for the facility.

Such commitments included providing proper treatment systems for waste and wastewater as well as preventing air pollution.

“If the factory has broken the commitments we will suspend its operations, even during the test run period,” he said.

The Rao Tro River, also known as the Nay River, originates in the Cam Ky Forest along the Lao border.

One of its two main distributaries flows into the Ke Go Lake in Ha Tinh Province while the other flows into the Gianh River in nearby Quang Binh Province.

Source: Tuoi Tre

ERA condemns alleged IITA’s plan to enrich cassava

Written by Daniel Gumm
Vanguard - Apapa,Lagos,Nigeria Tuesday, 31 March 2009

THE Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has criticised plans by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to carry out an alleged enrichment of Nigerian cassava, saying the exercise, if not halted by the Federal Government, is the culmination of a script written by the biotech industry to jeopardise Nigeria’s food sovereignty forever. A release from the USAID which was widely reported in the national dailies last week had stated that scientists at the IITA are working on cassava-based recipes that will be used in improving the nutrition and health of vulnerable groups such as women, children under five, and expectant mothers.

The research, christened, “Unleash the Power of Cassava in Africa (UPoCA),” is getting a $5.3 million funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and is a two-year project to introduce and test cassava-based complementary food for acceptability in Nigeria, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania.

UPoCA is coming on the heels of the Nigerian government’s alleged approval for the Danforth Centre in U.S to carry out contained field trials on a so-called super cassava in Nigeria with National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike in Imo State as a cover.

But in a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN frowned at the silence of the government on the planned trials, warning that the flurry of “back-door” approvals and researches to flood Nigeria with genetically modified crops in the guise of crop improvement is a grand ploy to colonise Nigeria’s food future. ERA/FoEN is worried that this experiment is seeking to use children, women and pregnant women as Guinea pigs for doubtful ends.

Drought hits sugar output

Bangkokpost.com; Published 30/03/2009 at 08:08 PM

Thailand may produce at least 3.8% less sugar this year because of drought has cut cane output, a government official said on Monday. Production may fall below 7.5 million tonnes from 7.8 million tonnes last year, said the official in charge of output planning. He said a serious impact in some areas from drought could continue into next year.

A drop in supply from Thailand may help offset increased production from Brazil and support prices, which tumbled 6.8% last week.

Thikha Khunnawat, director general of Thai Sugar Millers Corp, said many mills have already ended crushing. Sugarcane is also facing competition from other crops like cassava.

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