Local rice exporters yesterday call for better planning and communication between all industry actors to meet China’s import quota.
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Song Saran, CEO of rice exporter Amru Rice, said Cambodia will likely fail to export all 300,000 tonnes of rice allowed by China due, among other issues, to a lack of coordination among relevant local actors.
He said monthly meetings must be convened among relevant government agencies, members and representatives of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) and local firms to ensure that Cambodia is able to fulfill the 300,000 tonnes quota that China has in place for Cambodian rice.
Mr Saran also called for the establishment of a working group to organise and supervise the proposed meetings.
“Some rice exporters and rice millers have rice to process and export, but they are not allowed to ship to China, while others can export, but have no rice.
“This is a big issue and may make it difficult to meet the quota in 2018 and 2019,” Mr Saran said.
Last year, China increased its import quota for Cambodian rice to 300,000 tonnes, from 200,000 tonnes in 2017 and 100,000 tonnes in 2016.
During the first nine months of the year, Cambodia exported 96,714 tonnes of rice to the East Asian nation, according to the Secretariat of One Window Service for Rice Export.
“My request is that all related parties wake up and get to work. We need to focus and coordinate to make sure we ship the 300,000 tonnes that we are allowed,” Mr Saran said.
“We hope to create a forum where government, CRF officials, and key rice millers and exporters can come together to find a solution,” he said.
Given that Cambodia has only two rice growing seasons, China should plan its orders more carefully and notify Cambodian exporters of its plans, Mr Saran added.
“Without proper planning, it is difficult to supply them when they need our rice. Rice is not harvested every month. We only have two seasons, so we need better planning,” he said.
Only 26 Cambodian firms are allowed to ship to China, after having passed the first round of inspections conducted by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of China (AQSIQ), according to Srey Vuthy, secretary-general at Cambodia’s Ministry of Agriculture.
However, China has changed the process of inspection for rice importation, which has delayed the export process for the 40 local companies that are still waiting to be given the green light by Beijing to begin exporting.
The list with the name of the 40 potential exporters was sent to Beijing last year, and if the Chinese government does not review it soon, it will reflect badly on the Cambodian rice industry, Mr Vuthy said.
“It will also mean that only the 26 companies so far included in the exporters’ list can ship to China,” Mr Vuthy said.
“This is not enough to meet the quota. We are waiting on China to review the list, but so far we haven’t heard from them,” he said, explaining that if China does not react quickly, the rice will go to other countries, particularly Thailand and Vietnam.
Chan Sokheang, chairman and CEO of Signatures of Asia, told Khmer Times that Cambodia did not meet the Chinese quota last year because local rice back then was more expensive than Thailand’s.
Last year, the price of Thai rice dropped to $780, while Cambodian rice sold for $850-$920 per ton. “This made it hard to compete with Thailand to export rice to China,” he said.
Mr Sokheang was of the same mind than Mr Saran regarding the need for better coordination in the sector. “We should have a meeting to discuss the quota issue. We have to be more organised,” Mr Sokheang said.
From January to September, Cambodia exported over 389,000 tonnes of rice to more than 60 countries, which represents a decrease of 8.4 percent compared to the same period last year.
China continues to be the top buyer, followed by France and Poland.