Chosen by Angel for Bumper Crop, Banana Prices Rise for New Year

Khmer New Year could bring a fruitful financial harvest for sellers of bananas—this year’s divinely selected crop—but some vendors say their sales have not yet ripened.

Bananas were selected as this year’s official product by the angel Kemera Devi, who brings in the new year, so sales are expected to skyrocket, said Lor Reaksmey, spokesman for the Agriculture Ministry.

Bunches of bananas for sale at a Phnom Penh market on Wednesday (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“The price depends on market demand, and with the belief that Kemera Devi eats bananas, definitely banana prices could increase,” he said.

Astrologer Im Borin, an almanac author who foretells the angel’s annual preference, has put in good words for oil and blood in previous years.

A few banana vendors on Phnom Penh’s Street 154, including 35-year-old Seng Sary, bumped up their prices for the holiday, from the everyday cost of about 2,000 riel, or about $0.50, per bunch to between $1 and $1.25, he said.

Mr. Reasmey did not know the specific amount of bananas sold during the first quarter of this year, but said he expected the crop would be more bountiful than last year’s, in accordance with the traditional soothsayer’s new year predictions.

Last year, Cambodia harvested more than 98,000 tons of bananas, the spokesman said.

Upon arriving at Street 154 from Kandal province on Wednesday, Ros Sopheak, 42, and his family began assembling banana leaves into decorative trees used for prayer, puncturing the base of a thick stem with a wooden skewer.

Mr. Sopheak brought 100 large leaves to sell for between 5,000 and 6,000 riel, or $1.25 and $1.50. If he doesn’t sell all 100 trees before the holiday, he will start the new year with a parched pocketbook.

“Last year I sold a lot more than this year, and since this year is my first day I’m not sure I’m going to sell a lot,” he said.

Mr. Sary said he had sold only 80 bunches of fruit by Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s not worth it unless you sell it all, and for the last few days, it hasn’t been worth it,” he said.

Despite their languid business, the vendors were in the holiday spirit on Wednesday, joking about selling green bananas of the popular namva breed that will ripen before the new year weekend.

“The god only eats raw, unripe bananas,” Mr. Sary said.

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