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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 350 rice millers make deal to boost exports

350 rice millers make deal to boost exports

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Farm labourers harvest rice in rural Cambodia. Baitang Kampuchea Deputy General Manager Ny Lyheng says that a deal agreed Saturday with 350 millers from 10 provinces would allow the company – and the Kingdom – to boost rice exports. AFP

New agreement sets target of 300,000 tonnes to sell overseas

BAITANG Kampuchea Plc signed an agreement Saturday with 350 rice millers from around Cambodia aiming to strengthen cooperation in order to boost rice exports to international markets this year.

Ny Lyheng, deputy general manager of Baitang Kampuchea, which is known in English as Cambodian Green Plc, said the terms of the agreement would allow the exporter to supply between 200,000 and 300,000 tonnes of rice per year to overseas markets.

“Under this agreement, we hope that we will be able export large quantities of standard rice to international markets,” Ny Lyheng said.

The deal involves farmers from 10 provinces around Cambodia: Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kampong Cham, Kampong Speu, Kandal, Prey Veng, Pursat, Siem Reap, Svay Rieng and Takeo. Millers have committed to buying paddy from farmers and selling the processed rice to Baitang for export, according to the contract shown to the Post Sunday.

Un Buntha, a deputy director general in charge of internal trade at the Ministry of Commerce, said it was a shame the deal had not been inked earlier as half of this year’s excess paddy production had already been bought by foreign buyers.

“We believe that – even in light of the agreement – the company will not be able to sell more than 200,000 tonnes of rice on international markets this year because only dry season paddy is left over,” Un Buntha said.

In December, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries predicted that Cambodia would have 3.2 million tonnes of paddy left over from domestic use this year.

Ny Lyheng said Cambodian exporters may be able sell between 500,000 and 700,000 tonnes of rice to international buyers this year in Europe, the United States, Australia, Canada, Africa and the Philippines, among other places.

“I believe that Cambodia will have more capacity to export rice to international markets if it is able to process rice more collectively using modern techniques,” he said.

Large investment
Last year, Baitang invested US$7.8 million with government support to develop rice milling plants and packaging facilities in Battambang province. The setup will allow local rice millers to produce 720 tonnes of rice per day for export, Baitang said.

Suor Khieng, president of Kampong Cham province’s Rice Millers Association, who also signed the agreement Saturday, said foreign buyers had created stiff competition for raw paddy in Cambodia, but he was confident he would be able to fulfill his agreement with Baitang.

“We think that we will be able to buy enough paddy to support and meet the demands of our partner,” Suor Khieng said.

The Kampong Cham branch of the Rice Millers Association managed to buy 200,000 tonnes of paddy from the province’s farmers in 2008 as it had limited capital, Suor Khieng said, adding that it was a ubiquitous obstacle around Cambodia. Figures for 2009 were not yet available.

Un Buntha said the Ministry of Commerce had for two years been actively encouraging rice millers associations in the country to join forces to buy paddy in order to expand their exports of processed rice.

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