Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte is encouraging companies from his country to import Cambodian rice as part of efforts to ramp up trade and investment between the two Asean nations, according to a recent press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Corporation (MFAIC).
The statement was released on Friday during Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn’s official visit to Manila to attend the second meeting of the Cambodia-Philippines Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation at Manila, held from December 5-6.
Mr Duterte asked Filipino importers to buy Cambodian rice and called for more investment from the kingdom into the island nation, expressing his desire for trade and investment between both countries to flourish.
Hun Lak, the vice-president of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), said a rice deal between the Philippines and the kingdom would be extremely positive for the sector.
“It would be better if there are state-to-state negotiations on milled rice purchasing with an acceptable price for Cambodian rice, because our production costs are higher than neighbouring countries,” he said.
Last year the Philippines, one of the world’s top rice buyers, held a bid for a contract to supply milled rice to its market. Cambodia was an initial bidder, but Thailand and Vietnam brought the contract home.
“This year we expect to export about 600,000 tonnes of milled rice to international markets. If we can find international buyers, it will be easy because we have surplus rice,” Mr Lak said.
Song Saran, the CEO of Amru Rice, welcomed Mr Duterte’s comments, saying that it falls in line with one of Asean’s core objectives: to expand the trade flow between member states.
He added, however, that to achieve a significant hike in trade, logistics infrastructure within the region needs to be upgraded.
“My hope is to move beyond just rice and start sending to the Asean market large shipments of other agricultural commodities. There are 600 million people in Asean, so there is huge potential to expand trade,” he added.
During the first 11 months of this year, Cambodia shipped 562,237 tonnes of rice abroad, an increase of 17.2 percent compared with the same period last year, according to a report from the Secretariat of One Window Service for Rice Export Formality.
Of those imports, 47,312 tonnes were sent to only four Asean countries: Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam.