Cambodia was the fifth largest exporter of organic rice to the European Union last year, with local companies confident exports will continue to rise in the coming years.
Demand for organic rice in the EU and other key markets like the United States, Australia, and China is soaring as consumers become more environmentally and health-conscious, key insiders said.
According to figures from the EU shared with the Cambodia Rice Federation, Cambodia exported 8,467 tonnes of organic rice to the bloc last year, representing 3.9 percent of all EU organic rice imports.
The US was the largest exporter of organic rice to the EU, accounting for almost 70 percent of the market. It was followed by Pakistan and India, with 10 and 9 percent, respectively.
Thailand came in at number four with 4.9 percent of the market (10,522 tonnes in exports).
Local rice exporters told Khmer Times that the amount of Cambodian organic rice shipped to the bloc has increased this year.
About 90 percent of all Cambodian exports of organic rice to the EU last year belonged to Amru Rice Cambodia.
Kann Kunthy, vice president of Amru Rice, yesterday said the company has entered contract farming schemes with about 5,000 farmers and this year it aims to export 20,000 tonnes of organic rice to foreign markets, 80 to 90 percent of which will be sent to the EU.
“We are prioritising the production of organic rice and rice produced under the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP). These rice varieties make Cambodia more competitive against countries like Thailand, Vietnam, and India,” Mr Kunthy said.
Mr Kunthy explained that the rise in demand for organic rice is driven by concerns over the environmental impact of growing rice and a greater focus on health on the part of the consumers, who do not want to ingest pesticides and other chemicals used in agriculture.
Chan Pich, general manager of Signature of Asia, who last year exported 1,500 tonnes of organic rice to the EU, said demand for organic rice in the European Union grows about 15 percent every year.
“Cambodia’s organic rice is sought after in the EU because it has good quality and real traceability,” Mr Pich said.
According to Mr Pich, a tonne of organic jasmine rice fetches $1,500 while organic long-grain white rice sells for about $950 per tonne.
Last year, Cambodia exported 626,225 tonnes of rice (including all varieties and types), a drop of 1.5 percent compared to 2017.
Local firms exported mainly three types of rice: fragrant rice (493,597 tonnes shipped, or 78.8 percent of total rice exports), long-grain white rice (105,990 tonnes, or 16.9 percent), and long-grain parboiled rice (26,638 tonnes, or 4.2 percent).
The largest market for Cambodian rice was the European Union, which imported almost 270,000 tonnes, equivalent to 42.9 percent of total exports.
By individual country, the largest buyer was China with 170,000 tonnes.