When we asked feed manufacturers in Vietnam where their ingredients might be sourced in future, among their replies was a recommendation to look at what is happening in Cambodia regarding grain supplies. The southern part of Vietnam shares a long border with Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh City is only about 400 kilometres from the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. What is more, the Mekong River runs through both countries.
Cambodia is already cited by Vietnamese executives as an example of what can be achieved to promote better drying and storage arrangements for harvested crops, due to the success of a private-sector initiative on this theme. But an even greater attraction for Vietnam’s feed manufacturers is Cambodia’s potential to be a regional breadbasket supplying much-needed grains.
Capable of becoming big producer
Several thousand metric tons of Cambodian maize, cassava and soybeans have already been exported for use in feeds in Thailand as well as Vietnam. Much more could follow. Compared with a current grain production in the range of 2-4 million metric tons per year, Cambodia is said to be capable of producing 10-20 million metric tons annually if the right investments are made.
The most obvious financing currently has been with money from Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, China and Korea for ethanol production from cassava. Their focus on the Cambodian provinces of Battambang, Kompong Speu and Kompong Cham overlaps the main corn-growing areas which are in Battambang, Pailin and Banteay Meanchey.
During the dry seasons of 2008 and 2009, according to a report from Cambodia’s Ministry of Agriculture, the three provinces together grew red corn on 114,343 hectares, yielding 502,798 metric tons. This corresponded to 90% of the country's total production of 561,584 metric tons.
100,000 hectares suitable for maize
The director of Battambang’s provincial department of agriculture was quoted by the Phom Penh Post newspaper at the end of 2009 as saying the province had about 100,000 hectares of land suitable for growing maize. The farmers would use more of it for this purpose once they were sure they could find a customer for the grain.
The view from Vietnam is that Cambodia in total has 5 million hectares of arable land and the valuable possibility of using the Mekong River for irrigation and transport. Good climatological conditions should allow several million tons of maize, cassava and soybeans to be grown easily. Exported grain could simply be loaded into large barges to travel down the Mekong for delivery to the south of Vietnam