Battambang Grapes

Producer Offers Grapevines to would-be Cambodian Winemakers

By: Vorn Makara

Battambang is usually associated with its abundant rice crop and sweet oranges. One Battambang landowner is now trying to branch out into grapes.

Cambodia’s first vineyard was planted in Banon district, Battambang province in 1999 Chan Thai Chhoeung, the vineyard’s owner, is now producing grape wine.

After the relative success of Amatak Prasat Phnom Banon Grape Wine, which may be down to Cambodians’ strong sense of patriotism than the delicate flavor, Chan Thai Chhoeung decided to allow others to try their hand at viniculture.

He is now offering the grapevines themselves for sale, and hoping to attract more Cambodians to grape growing, he also offers training in the sometimes complex techniques.

Chan Thai Chhoeung told Economics Today he is self-taught from a mix of book reading and experience growing oranges and other fruit.

He claimed to have already sold significant numbers of vines, bred from varieties imported from France and Australia, since 2008. Two more vineyards are to set up with vines bought from Chan Thai Chhoeung, one in Battambang province’s Ratanak Mondoul district, and the other in Banteay Meanchey province. These two farms buy a total of 16,000 grapevines, he said, and all are to be used to produce wine.

Those thinking about treading some grapes themselves may want to think twice; in addition to the vast tracts needed for a commercial operation, the grapevines themselves are pricey. With a purchase of 8,000 vines or more, each grapevine still costs US$5. Buyers can rest easy about the initial stages of cultivation, however; Chan Thai Chhoeung said he can help take care of the vines until they fruit.

He can also subsequently collect grapes to make wine. Chan Thai Chhoeung said he buys grapes, at US$2 per kg in December, January, February, and March, and US$1.5 per kg in other months.

Those looking to grow grapes for fruit and other products are also in luck. But while Chan Thai Chhoeung sells such vines for cultivation, he is not interested in buying back the fruit.

The future looks good for grapes, he said. Grapes are relatively new to Cambodian but are already popular in urban areas. Yet trying to cultivate grapes can be difficult and expensive, Chan Thai Chhoeung warned. “Many people are interested in growing grapes, but it depends on the investment capital. They have to spend a lot more money than growing other crops.”

Other potential investors are waiting to see how initial ventures fare, he claimed. “Now some people are looking at the [first] two farms; whether they will get good fruit or not. If they see that those two farms get good products, I believe that there will be an increase in new customers,” added Chan Thai Chhoeung.

Next year will see Chan Thai Chhoeung will sell grapes as fruit in Cambodia. Currently growing 12,000 grapevines, 4,000 are for fruit production, he said he will expand his farm as much as possible. “It depends on the money I have. I don’t set a limit on how many grapevines I will grow.”

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