Exports of milled rice rose by 6 percent during the first quarter of the year compared to the same period in 2018, according to the latest report from the Ministry of Agriculture.
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While China was the top buyer, exports of the commodity to the European Union declined slightly, clear sign tariffs imposed earlier this year by the EU are having an effect on trade.
From January to March, Cambodia exported 170,821 tonnes of milled rice compared to 161,115 tonnes during the same months last year.
Song Saran, Amru Rice president, said they have been receiving a lot of orders from countries across Asia, while those from the EU have declined slightly.
“Our company exported a lot to the Asian market, particularly China and some Asean countries like Thailand and Vietnam,” he said.
“After China increased its import quota for Cambodian rice, demand in that market has increased. From January to March, which is low season, we sent there 20,000 to 30,000 tonnes a month.
“I believe that during the second half of the year the number of orders will double because it is peak season, and I think we will meet our quota of 400,000 tonnes in the Chinese market.”
Mr Saran said Cambodia’s fragrant rice is popular among Chinese and Vietnamese consumers. “They trust our quality very much. I believe exports there will continue to grow.”
In January, the Chinese government agreed to increase its import quota for Cambodian rice by 100,000 tonnes for 2019. The Vietnamese government in February also expanded its quota for Cambodian rice to 300,000 tonnes a year.
By contrast, exports to the EU have decreased, Mr Saran lamented. “In the EU we lost a little bit of market, particularly for white rice and parboiled rice.
“I do hope that, given the quality of our fragrant rice, European consumers will continue to buy our products.”
Chan Sokheang, chairman and CEO of Signatures of Asia, also reported a decline in shipments to the European market.
“Since the EU imposed the tariffs, demand for our rice has diminished, particularly for white rice. This doesn’t mean we don’t export there anymore. People in Europe still buy our products because our rice has a great reputation, particularly our fragrant variety.”
Mr Sokheang said he was satisfied with their performance in the Chinese market. “Our milled rice is growing in popularity in China, especially our fragrant rice. I hope we can continue to expand our presence in that market.”
In January, the EU imposed tariffs on rice imports from Cambodia and Myanmar that, it says, were hurting farmers in the European Union.
The European bloc believed a significant increase in shipments of Indica rice from Cambodia and Myanmar into the EU caused economic damage to producers in Europe.
During the first year, 175 euros ($199.5) per tonne will be levied, 150 euros ($171) in the second year, and 125 euros ($142.5) in the last.
Last year, Cambodia exported 626,225 tonnes of rice to international markets, a drop of 1.5 percent compared to 2017. The largest market for Cambodian rice was the EU, which imported almost 270,000 tonnes, equivalent to 42.9 percent of total exports.