Thailand Warns Of Possible Ban On Cambodian Cassava

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Thailand said it is considering imposing a ban on imports of Cambodian cassava following reports that the cassava mosaic virus has been found in local crops, according to the National News Bureau of Thailand (NNT).

Employees of a local firm load cassava sacks to a truck. KT/Mai Vireak

According to a news report released Monday by NNT, Suwit Chaikiattiyos, director of Thailand’s Department of Agriculture, said they might enforce a “strict” ban on Cambodian cassava if an inquiry into reports of the presence of the virus in Cambodian crops finds it necessary.

Mr Suwit said his department has been studying several reports detailing the spread of the virus in Cambodia, and has concluded that imposing a ban might be the most appropriate course of action, although he failed to provide a specific date as to when it would become effective, or how long it would last.

An outbreak of the mosaic virus can lead to substantial losses for Thailand’s agriculture sector and cassava industry, he said, explaining that the virus has never been found in Thailand before.

“The cassava mosaic virus is normally found in countries like India or Sri Lanka,” he said.

The Cambodian government rejects claims that there have been incidences of the cassava-infecting virus in the shared border between the Kingdom and Thailand, although in September it acknowledged that the virus had been found in other parts of the country.

Pang Vannaseth, director of the Agriculture Department in Banteay Meanchey province, which shares a border with Thailand, told Khmer Times that no incidence of the virus has been reported in the province.

“If the mosaic virus was attacking our cassava, farmers would not be able to expand their plantations,” Mr Vannaseth said. “We found no trace of the virus in farms in Banteay Meanchey.”

“This is not a serious threat from Thailand, just a warning,” he added.

“We always tell farmers to monitor their crops for traces of the virus and to report any sign of contamination to the agriculture department, which will help destroy the virus,” Mr Vannaseth said.

Ker Munthivuth, director of the Department of Plant Protection, said the ministry has acknowledged that presence of the virus in Cambodia, but not in areas that border Thailand.

“We confirm that the cassava mosaic disease is present in Ratanakkiri and Tboung Khmum provinces, but there is no sign of the virus in the western provinces that share a border with Thailand,” Mr Munthivuth said.

“After we found the virus in Ratanakkiri and Tboung Khmum, the ministry issued a statement to farmers with guidelines to stop its spread.

“The cassava mosaic virus is very difficult to destroy, and we don’t have any pesticide that can help us kill it. The best way to guarantee its extermination is to burn contaminated produce, but this is obviously not a sustainable solution in the long run.”

Ny Khon, president of the Federation of Cassava in Battambang, an association that has more than 100 members, said export operations with Thailand have not been affected yet, and that no cases of the virus have been reported among members of the association.

“Export activity with Thailand continues as normal,” Ms Khon said, adding that most shipments of cassava bound to Thailand cross the border through the Sampov Loun border gate in Battambang province.

Kim Hout, director of Battambang’s Commerce Department, said he was unaware of any bans on local cassava.

“We haven’t heard anything about a possible ban on Cambodian cassava in Thailand. Anyways, right now cassava is off season and there is not much of it to export,” he said.

This article was originally published in the Khmer Times.