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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Exporters heap praise on rice policy update

Exporters heap praise on rice policy update

Council of Ministers approves draft document to help improve infrastructure, quality and financing for growing rice industry

... we will become an important rice supplier for the region but also for the entire world.

THE Kingdom plans to increase rice exports through increased productivity and improved infrastructure, according to a draft policy document approved during a plenary session of the Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh on Friday.

Improvements to roads, irrigation systems and the provision of technical and financial aid were earmarked for development, as part of a rice policy update.

A draft of the rice strategy was drawn up by the National Supreme Economic Council following April’s Government-Private Sector Forum, in which Prime Minister Hun Sen highlighted the importance of rice in the future of the Kingdom while axing rice export licences in order to boost trade.

Although details of how the policies would be implemented were not released to the Post, officials active in drafting the policy document believe that pursuing policy adjustments will make Cambodia a large net rice exporter in the future.

Rural Development Bank governor Sun Kunthor, who is also deputy chairman of the National Supreme Economic Council, said the government had already doubled his bank’s capital to US$36 million for 2010, enabling increased loans to farmers and rice processors to produce better-quality rice in response to international demand.

“We hope Cambodia will have a surplus totalling millions of tonnes of rice for export by 2015,” he said.

Cambodia aims to produce as much as 15 million tonnes of paddy by 2015, which would result in a projected surplus of 8 million tonnes for export. With 2.6 million hectares currently under rice cultivation, the Kingdom’s farmers harvested 7.3 million tonnes of paddy in 2009, resulting in a 3.1 million tonne surplus.

The Ministry of Agriculture reported in April that rice farmers had yielded an average of 2.83 tonnes of paddy per hectare this season, an increase on 2.74 tonnes per hectare in the 2008 to 2009 season.

According to the Cambodian Small and Medium Industries Association secretary general, Outh Renne, Cambodia grows rice on one quarter of its potential farm land at present.

“If we have better infrastructure and enough capital, we will become an important rice supplier for the region but also for the entire world,” he said.

Currently, 80 percent of the domestic population is employed primarily as rice farmers, but the Kingdom experiences low yields compared to neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam because fields lack irrigation systems to enable growth.

Major rice exporters welcomed the new policies Sunday, claiming the strategies would help reduce obstacles to producing rice suitable for sale internationally.

Golden Rice Company general manager Chan Vuthy approved of move, but said that the government must pursue comprehensive strategies to reduce production costs. High electricity and transportation prices make it difficult for Cambodian rice to compete on international markets, he said.

President of Laurent Import Export Company, Lim Bun Heng, said that increased transparency from the government when approving and issuing documents for rice exports would also help expedite shipments, as this has proved a difficulty for exporters in the past.

His firm has already begun selling Cambodian rice to Europen companies.

“Companies have been upgrading rice mills to reach international standards. This has helped some firms find international buyers,” Lim Bun Heng said.

Baitang Kampuchea general manager Phou Puy said he hoped that the government’s plans would reduce “challenges” for rice exporters.

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