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Milled-rice exports gaining traction

120424_07

The tonnage of the Kingdom’s milled-rice exports jumped nearly 50 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter, according to the Ministry of Commerce, with export revenues soaring as much as 82 per cent.

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Total exports of milled rice for the first three months of 2012 hit 38,409 tonnes, climbing 49 per cent from the year-ago period, when exports were 25,784 tonnes, ministry data showed.

At the same time, revenues from exports increased 82.4 per cent to US$27.1 million, up from $14.9 million year-on-year.

Mao Thora, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said growth in both the number of rice millers and milling capacity, as well as the continued investment in sector, helped to push up the numbers.

“Now we see that rice millers are increasing gradually, so the exports are also on the rise,” he said, adding that both local and foreign investors are eyeing the sector.

Still, insiders noted that the Kingdom’s pricier milled rice had made the crop less competitive on the international market, as the early-stage sector had yet to create economies of scale that would lower production costs.

“Our price is high, and that made it difficult to ship rice out of the country early this year,” Seng Bun Sor, vice president of the Federation of Cambodian Rice Millers Associations and president of Seng Bun Sor Rice Exporter.

As a result, some millers did not see increases in their export numbers, he added.

That sentiment was echoed by Hun Lak, president of Mekong Oriza Rice Exporter, who said both Vietnam and India were selling their rice at more competitive prices and that is a threat to domestic exporters.

“The price of our milled rice is higher, resulting in a drop in the export of all kinds of milled rice,” he said. Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Chan Sarun recently acknowledged the increased cost of Cambodian rice, but said duty-free status in markets like the European Union should help to bolster the Kingdom’s competitiveness.

He predicted milled rice exports this year would more than double.

Cambodia’s milled rice exports last year were about 170,772 tonnes, totalling $103.9 million, according to Ministry of Commerce data.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sieam Bunthy at sieam.bunthy@phnompenhpost.com

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