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Rice Exporters Face Greater Scrutiny from China

Sok Chan / Khmer Times Share:
A farmer harvests rice. Exports of the grain are facing food-safety scrutiny in China.Supplied

China has set a yearend deadline for Cambodia to submit a list of all Cambodian rice exporters so that Chinese inspectors can evaluate whether they can fully meet food safety laws in a market Cambodian exporters are hoping to increase exports to, according to an announcement from the Ministry of Agriculture.  

It called on domestic rice exporters to cooperate with ministry officials by providing contact information by December 18. Ministry officials will then inspect and evaluate each rice miller to determine whether they have the capacity to process, mill and store rice so that it can meet standards required to ship it to the Chinese market. 

Hean Vanhan, a deputy general director at the ministry, said China had asked Cambodia to evaluate rice exporters to determine whether they adhered to hygiene laws in China because officials in the world’s second largest economy did not trust all of the 71 rice exporters registered with the Ministry of Commerce. 

“China is strengthening hygiene and food safety standards so they have some conditions for Cambodia to implement for Cambodian rice exporters,” Mr. Vanhan said. “They asked the Cambodian government to recheck whether rice exporters are fully complying with their standards.”

“It is a rush to work on this, but we are trying our best to send them the list of our rice exporting companies by the deadline. Our officials will go onsite to evaluate the technical production, processing and storage facilities in each rice exporter and then send the information to China,” Mr. Vanhan said. 

Agriculture officials say not all of the 71 rice exporters registered in the Ministry of Commerce are active. Some have reserved licenses with the intention to export in the future, they said. 

Only 23 companies exported rice – to China and other countries – this year, officials said. Of these, just 10 account for most rice exports, they said.  

Exporters that lack rice milling, warehouse and storage facilities are not permitted to export rice to China, officials said. “China imported about 91,883 tons of rice in the first 11 months this year, so if Cambodia cannot meet requirements set by China it will have a bit effect of rice exporters in Cambodia,” Mr. Vanhan said.

Song Saran, president of Amru Rice (Cambodia), welcomed the move, saying that it will be good for Cambodia as a rice exporting country. Cambodia has the ability to supply a large amount of high-quality, hygienic rice to China and Cambodia can meet food-safety standards set by China. 

“If China is aiming to strengthen food safety, it is not a big concern as we also want to show them our production process, from producing to processing and storage,” Mr. Saran said. 

“We are ready to work with the government to ensure that it has all the information related to rice millers so that it is easy for them to check in case a problem occurs,” he added.

Hun Lak, vice president of the Cambodia Rice Federation, told Khmer Times recently that the federation has worked with experts on rice promotion, logistics, energy issues, export documentation and to conduct field visits to rice millers in various provinces to assess concerns. 

“They are working with the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Agriculture to smooth out the production process,” Mr. Lak said. 

Cambodia exported 450,000 tons of rice over the first 11 months of the year, according to a recent report from the Agriculture Ministry. Though only around half of the government’s goal for the year, rice exports did rise 36 percent over the same period last year, despite some 242,416 hectares of rice fields in 16 provinces being severely affected by drought as of November, the report said.

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