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Thriving rice sector sees hike in exports

Sok Chan / Khmer Times Share:
A man operates a forklift to move sacks of rice in a local warehouse. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Exports of Cambodian rice rose by more than 17 percent this year, moving from just over 542,000 tonnes in 2016 to more than 635,600 in 2017, according to the latest report from the Ministry of Agriculture.

Srey Vuthy, the director of the department of planning and statistics at the ministry, told Khmer Times that 2017 had been a great year for the rice sector, particularly for exports.

He said that 10 million tonnes of paddy were produced in the country, generating a surplus of five million tonnes. A significant portion of that surplus was sent abroad, with Cambodia still lacking the infrastructure to store such large amounts of produce.

“When the new storage and processing facilitates are finished we hope to increase those exports, as we will be able to purchase more rice, store it and process it,” Mr Vuthy said. “We could achieve a 15 percent growth in exports next year if those facilities are in place.”

Last year the government approved the disbursement of several loans, amounting to a total of $30 million, to build warehouses and silos to store rice across the country. The Cambodia Rice Bank was one of the associations selected as a recipient and will be building storage facilities in Battambang that could be used by farmers in Banteay Meanchey, Pailin and Pursat.

Song Saran, the CEO of Amru Rice, said the biggest markets for Cambodian rice in 2017 were China and the European Union. Both China and the EU have a preference for Cambodian fragrant rice, he said, with the price of the commodity abroad now being very attractive for exporters.

“With demand for fragrant rice rising, we are happy this year we had a significant surplus,” he said, adding that the government will achieve its goal of reaching one million tonnes in rice exports in upcoming years if it continues its financial support for the sector.

“We need time to build our supply chain by reducing costs and increasing productivity and production,” he said. “We need lower electricity bills and better logistics infrastructure.”

Speaking during a competition to determine the best paddy in the country held last month, Sok Puthyvuth, the president of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), said the rice sector continues to be at the top of governmental priorities, and added that the industry is on a clear path towards more development and further mechanisation.

“This year we surpassed the 600,000 tonnes mark, which is a great accomplishment. Now our focus is to find new markets,” Mr Puthyvuth said.

“To continue on growing and to reach new markets, we need a concerted, sector-wide effort, in which all the relevant stakeholders do their part.

“We need to modernise the industry and become more competitive in the international marketplace,” he said, adding that the CRF is planning a number of initiatives in cooperation with the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Agriculture to bolster the capabilities of the association.

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