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Hun Sen: Rice policy updates on the way

CAMBODIA faces a number of obstacles in boosting rice exports that will be addressed in the government’s updated policy document, Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday.

Speaking at a university graduation ceremony, he said the updated policies were due August 17, and would be aimed at maximising rice exports for the benefit of the national economy.

“We still lack things such as machines to mill rice to acceptable standards, warehouses, and money to buy paddy to export,” he said at the ceremony at Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich Centre.

With little domestic capital available to buy paddy, competitors from markets such as Thailand and Vietnam buy Cambodian paddy and then process and re-export it.

“We need a lot of money to buy the unhusked rice,” he said.

“Exporting paddy makes us lose rice husks, work.... That’s why we want to attract direct capital.”

The drafting of the new policy had been spearheaded by the Supreme National Economic Council, said Meng Saktheara, director of the Industry Department of the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy.

Input had largely been provided by two ministries, with the Ministry of Commerce concentrating on facilitating trade and export, while MIME tackled the supply side by increase milling capacity and standards.

The policy update would be just the latest in a raft of initiatives undertaken this year to boost the export of milled rice – a push that has already paid off with a massive surge in the milled grain’s export in the first half of this year.

Some 107,291 tonnes of milled rice worth $13.4 million were exported through May this year – a 2,356 percent jump on last year, according to statistics from the Ministry of Commerce’s CamControl.

The prime minister said that ongoing discussions with regional leaders were aimed at facilitating rice exports. Talks have taken place with Malaysia and Singapore, and he said he looked to meet with newly elected Philippine President Benigno Aquino at a future event.

The Philippines is currently the world’s largest importer of rice, according to Bloomberg.

“Cambodia has to increase its ability to compete to enlarge the marketplace, while keeping the existing markets such as the US, Europe, and Canada,” he said.

“We have to find other marketplaces as well.”

The SNEC was ordered in April to begin composing the new policy document.

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