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Decline in transfers linked to rice prices

International fund transfers to Cambodia through Acleda Bank, which claims to handle a quarter of all inbound fund transfers to the country, decreased slightly last year as a result of lower rice prices, a bank executive said yesterday.

In Channy, president and group managing director of Acleda Bank, said inbound fund transfers, including remittances, declined to $1.52 billion last year, from $1.54 billion in 2015. He said the decrease – which bucked Cambodia’s steady 7 percent GDP growth – was largely due to the lower value of international trade in agricultural products, particularly rice.

“Total fund transfers for international trade in the industrial sector in 2016 increased as usual, but the value of rice transactions declined noticeably,” he said.

The decline in fund transfers to Cambodia through Acleda Bank reflected a slowdown in the growth of rice exports last year, while the commodity’s price fell. Government data showed Cambodian rice exports grew by just 0.7 percent last year to 542,144 tonnes, while prices declined between 5 to 18 percent compared to 2015.

Hun Lak, vice president of the Cambodia Rice Federation, confirmed that falling rice prices cut into both the profit and revenue of rice exports last year, denting overall trade value.

“Though we maintained the same quantity of rice exports last year, the value declined noticeably and lowered our profit margin,” he said, adding that this was a global issue affecting all rice-exporting countries.

Soeng Sophary, spokesperson of the Ministry of Commerce, said while Acleda Bank was the country’s largest bank for international fund transfers, its figures should not be taken to represent the trend of the country as a whole. She suspects that total inbound fund transfers from abroad increased last year, though much of it was conducted in cash.

“The figure of money transfer via banks is not 100 percent reflective of the real situation in Cambodia because our traders along border are not fully using banking services yet,” she said, adding that commercial activities in the agricultural sector typically occur along the border with traders using cash.

A Ministry of Commerce annual report released late last month estimated that Cambodia’s total exports reached $9.86 billion in 2016, up 3 percent compared to 2015.

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