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Minister rejects World Bank report

Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh has rejected a recent World Bank report that dismissed the Kingdom’s goal of exporting 1 million tonnes of milled rice by 2015.

The report – dated July 12 but leaked last week – said uncompetitive prices and logistics bottlenecks would make even 500,000 tonnes of milled-rice exports virtually unattainable within the intended deadline.

However, Cham Prasidh rejected the World Bank’s calculations as shortsighted. Cambodia has already exported 2 million tonnes of unmilled rice this year, he said, which if milled would convert into about 800,000 tonnes of milled rice, or close to the government’s goal.

“If we rely on the World Bank report, [Cambodia] will probably be very poor. They don’t know when it is possible for us to export 1 million tonnes of milled rice,” Cham Prasidh said at a press conference at Phnom Penh International Airport on Friday.

World Bank representatives could not be reached for comment yesterday. The minister recognised, however, the Kingdom’s poor milling capacity, which accounts for the large volume of Cambodian rice presently milled in Vietnam and Thailand.  Although the number of mills in Cambodia has doubled in the past two years, the World Bank said in its report that the small mill size and cost, among several other factors, “simply will not accommodate such large-scale volumes.”

The lack of shipping trucks coupled with the shallow Sihanoukville port also would restrict Cambodia’s rice-exporting capacity, the report said. Several leading rice exporters said exports could freeze at 250,000 tonnes per year until railway and port improvements are made, according to the report.

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