Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday said that rice exporters should turn to China and Vietnam in an effort to diversify the export market away from the European Union.
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Speaking at the groundbreaking of a China-funded hospital in Tboung Khmum province, Mr Hun Sen said exporting more to China and Vietnam is key to the survival of the sector after the EU imposed tariffs on Cambodian rice and initiated the process to temporarily halt the country’s preferential trade status.
Mr Hun Sen asked exporters to focus on filling the quota the Chinese government has for imports of Cambodian rice, which was recently expanded from 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes.
“At the moment the price of rice has decreased and I have instructed the ministers of agriculture and commerce to focus on China and Vietnam, which will help lift the price of the commodity,” Mr Hun Sen said.
He said China is a priority market for the Kingdom, with the government doing its utmost to expand export of agricultural products to the East Asian giant.
Last year, the world’s second-largest economy was the country that bought the largest amount of Cambodian rice, importing 170,000 tonnes.
Hun Lak, vice president of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), said diversifying Cambodia’s export markets is crucial.
“We now face tariffs in the EU so we have to turn to other markets to restore investor confidence,” Mr Lak said.
He said the government can help the private sector fill China’s quota by providing incentives that can reduce production costs.
“The fact that the quota was expanded is a good sign, but in order to actually fill that quota we must reduce production costs so that we can be competitive in that market,” Mr Lak said.
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 continues to be the EU, which imported almost 270,000 tonnes, equivalent to 42.98 percent of total exports.
By individual country, after China, the largest buyers were France (90,000 tonnes), Malaysia (40,000 tonnes), Gabon (30,000 tonnes), and the Netherlands (26,000 tonnes).