China has agreed to double its rice import quota, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced at the opening of the first Chinese-Cambodia investment forum in Nanning, China yesterday, offering a much-needed boost to Cambodia’s beleaguered rice sector.
The prime minister said China’s government had officially accepted the Kingdom’s request that it increase its annual rice imports to 200,000 tonnes, from 100,000 tonnes, starting this year, adding that negotiations were underway to increase China’s imports of other agricultural products.
Sok Puthyvuth, president of the Cambodian Rice Federation (CRF), welcomed the prime minister’s announcement, but said the deal was not yet set in stone.
“The doubling of the rice quota is the framework we have been working with, but it is up to the Ministry of Commerce to make sure the deal is finalised,” he said.
Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak said the revised quota was important for Cambodia’s rice sector, which has routinely lost out on large-scale supply contracts to bids by rival countries able to produce rice more cheaply.
“This will help both exporters and farmers,” he said, adding, “but we have many important markets besides China for rice, like the European Union.”
The investment forum coincided with the 13th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO), an event that aims to strengthen China’s relations with Southeast Asia through “shared investment and shared development”.
The expo also served to promote the Maritime Silk Road – a Chinese strategic initiative to increase trade and investment along the sea route from the South China Sea to the eastern Mediterranean region.
Though dominated by rice, the exposition provided Cambodian companies a platform for the Kingdom’s agricultural producers and industrial firms to display their products.
Kith Meng, president of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce, part of a delegation of Cambodian private sector leaders attending the investment forum, said the high-profile event could serve as a launch pad for Chinese and ASEAN investment into Cambodia.
“This forum will help promote Cambodia to China and the region and will further open doors for investment,” he said. “With our private sector working groups, we have a high potential to bring business opportunities from China to Cambodia, I hope.”
China accounted for 44 percent of the $19.2 billion of FDI that flowed into Cambodia from 1994 to 2014, according to investment data released in July. Last year, trade volume between the two countries was recorded at $4.4 billion, an 18 percent year-on-year increase.