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Committees to Tackle Rice Woes

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Rice production figures from every province in the country will now be closely monitored to identify potential crisis areas. AFP

The Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) yesterday agreed to create provincial level committees to provide emergency relief to the Kingdom’s beleaguered rice sector, currently in crisis due to falling exports.
 
During a joint working group meeting between the CRF and MAFF, Minister of Agriculture Veng Sakhon agreed to create an organizational structure at the provinces, where farmers and millers in rural areas could get quick help from government agencies and bodies in Phnom Penh.
 
“These provincial working groups would be chaired by either the governor or deputy governor and will be the conduit for assistance to be given [to farmers and millers] from the national level,” said Mr. Sakhon.
 
The set-up of these provincial working groups comes as the Kingdom’s rice exports fell by 6.9 percent from 312,317 tons in the first seven months last year, to 292,277 tons in the same period this year, according to a report from the Secretariat of One Window Service for Rice Export Formality.
 
Rice millers are currently in financial doldrums due to a severe shortage of funds to buy harvested rice from farmers to be milled for export. Cambodia’s rice production has been down due to the drought earlier this year and this contributed to the sharp shortfall of paddy rice supply for millers to process for export.
 
In June, the government agreed to make out loans of between $20 million and $30 million to help rice millers purchase rice from farmers after the harvest this November to store in warehouses and process them for export. But two months later, none of the loans have been made and rice millers are becoming very anxious.
 
Sok Puthyvuth, president of CRF, welcomed the formation of the provincial working groups, and said it heralded a new era for the private sector to work jointly with the government ‒ especially with the Ministry of Agriculture and other relevant ministries.
 
Hun Lak, CRF’s vice-president, told Khmer Times that the provincial working groups would collect rice production figures from every province in the country on a frequent basis and analyze them quickly to identify potential crisis areas.
“These provincial working groups will provide a better picture on rice production outputs and if there are problems, there will be a better work flow between the private and public sector to tackle them,” said Mr. Lak.
 
“CRF cannot work on this alone and we need to work together jointly with the Agriculture Ministry and other ministries, from the sub-national to national level,” he said.
 
Hean Vanhan, deputy general director of the department of agriculture, said yesterday that the provincial working groups could also monitor the amount of rice to be milled for exports, so as to control prices and prevent a glut in the market.
 
“For the sake of farmers in the country, the Agriculture Ministry and agriculture departments nationwide are always willing to lend a helping hand,” he said.
 

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