How long does it take to peel a ripe mango? For Cambodian workers, the answer is "a few seconds," too fast to be seen clearly.
At the Long Wo Fruit Industry Co., Ltd. in Western Kampong Speu province, ripe mangoes are peeled, sliced, dried and packaged, and then sent to Chinese consumers thousands of miles away.
Lu Song, general manager of Long Wo Fruit Industry Co., Ltd., said the company began exporting dried mangoes to China in 2017 and that with the increase in market demand, the export volume has risen rapidly, reaching about 1,500 tons per year.
"Although the COVID-19 pandemic has affected sales this year, there is still strong demand on the Chinese market for Cambodian dried mangoes."
Lu hopes to use dried mangoes as a star product to open up the Chinese market, gradually establishing a complete industrial chain covering mango planting, processing, and export, and extending it to more fruit-related products.
Chen Qisheng, general manager of China Certification & Inspection Group (CCIC)'s Cambodian branch, said that thanks to the free trade agreement signed between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Cambodia's dried mango exports to China enjoy tariff preferences.
He said currently, there are more than 20 Chinese companies engaged in dried mango processing in Cambodia.
Huang Kejin, managing director of Cam MJ Industrial Park, which was launched at the end of 2019, said the first project his park attracted was a dried mango processing factory.
"The factory has not only solved the problem of local fruit farmers' difficulty in exporting mangoes, but also promoted local employment," he said.
He is optimistic about the export prospect of Cambodia's dried mangoes to China, saying that next year, a total of three dried mango processing lines in the park will be put into operation, needing about 42,000 tons of mangoes a year.
In October, China and Cambodia signed a bilateral free trade agreement, and in November, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal was signed among 10 ASEAN countries and China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.
The two pacts will bring more benefits to Cambodia's agricultural exports, businessmen from both sides said.
Chen said in the past five years, China's consumer market has grown rapidly, and there has been an increasing demand for high-quality agricultural products, especially tropical fruits.
As China's support for Cambodia's agricultural development continues to increase, more Cambodian high-quality agricultural products will be directly exported to China, and Cambodian agriculture will see more opportunities for development.
Cambodia and China signed in June a protocol on phytosanitary requirements that would pave the way for the exports of fresh mangoes from Cambodia to China.
"We hope to export our fresh mangoes to China officially in the near future," Cambodia's Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon has told media. "When the export starts, I believe that a market shortage will no longer concern our farmers."
According to the minister, the kingdom has planted more than 124,000 hectares of mango trees, yielding around 1.44 million tons of fresh mangoes per annum.
"The upcoming export of fresh mangoes to China will contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction in Cambodia's rural areas," he said.