The Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) and the Association for SMEs of Cambodia will jointly hold the fifth Cambodia Rice Forum to discuss the future of the country’s rice industry with major stakeholders.
The forum, which is scheduled for the 24-26th of January, is aimed at boosting rice production and promoting rice exports. Hampered by drought, poor infrastructure, and high logistical costs, Cambodia’s rice industry has struggled to compete with its neighbors.
The CRF aims to make Cambodian rice brands known on the international stage. At the forum, representatives from different stakeholders in the rice industry will discuss solutions to problems that continue to plague the country’s rice industry, officials said.
CRF president Sok Puthyvuth said the country is rich in agricultural potential, though the price, quality, and supply of its rice has yet to meet international standards. The main problems facing the industry, he said, are a lack of adequate warehouses and seeds, as well as an inefficient market system.
“What is most important is the cooperation between farmers, mill owners, and the CRF,” he said. “The CRF is trying to boost the cooperation of all parties. Everyone is in the same boat, and they have to work together to boost production. They must increase quality while reducing expenses… we try to cut the original production price down to smoothen the production chain.”
Low-quality rice is often passed off as high-grade fragrant Cambodian rice, and Mr. Puthyvuth said stopping the sale of fake rice is vital to strengthening the country’s position in global markets.
“Cambodia’s rice industry will compete with neighboring countries,” he said, “so we must be prepared to stop counterfeit Cambodian rice from going on sale in other countries, and we have to believe in each other internally to compete with the other countries.”
The CRF plans to introduce a new quality assurance system to ensure that counterfeit rice does not make I out of the country. “The CRF is preparing to introduce quality assurance processes…to prevent cases of falsified product from happening,” he said.
He added that the CRF is concerned about neighboring countries signing free trade agreements with the EU that would allow them to lower prices. Both Myanmar and Vietnam are strengthening their footing on the continent, he said. “They want to sign a free trade agreement with the EU that enable them to be freed from the tax. As a result, competition will be fiercer.”
Despite the growing competition, Europe remains the main market for Cambodian rice.
Mr. Puthyvuth sees potential in the market for high-end rice. “Our strategy is that we strengthen the fragrant rice because we see that the rice market is open and we can grab the market. Cambodian rice has a great deal of potential in the global market.”
With little infrastructure in place to provide water during dry spells, Cambodian rice farmers are more susceptible to drought than farmers in neighboring countries.
“Infrastructure will help us manage water sources and prevent natural calamities from putting our farmers at risk. It requires all institutions and parties involved in the rice food chain to cooperate in order to give more ideas to solve problems facing us,” he added.
Kim Savuth, vice president of Cambodia Rice Federation, said the forum aims to increase the sale of Cambodian rice in global markets.
“Our CFR tries to boost the price for farmers, and the important thing is the international market, so what we want is farmers should grow good product that is in demand in the international market,” Mr. Savuth said.
Te Taing Por, presedent of Federation of Associations for SMEs of Cambodia, stressed the importance of the private sector in the success of Cambodia’s rice industry. The rice industry is hampered, he said, by limited financing options.
“Our job is to boost the rice export,” he said. “The government needs the private sector to boost the production, but many microfinance institutions or banks focus only on real estate.”
Rice exports reached 400,800 tons in the first eleven months of the year, reaching 58 countries around the world.