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Officials worry over tiny rise in rice exports

Cambodian milled rice exports grew by only 0.52 per cent in the first 10 months of the year, compared to the same period last year, according to new figures from the government. Officials have expressed concern over Cambodia’s ability to reach its export target of one million tonnes by 2015.

Hean Vanhorn, deputy director general of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and director of the Single Window Secretariat in charge of facilitating milled rice exports, said the country’s total export of milled rice only reached 148,200 tonnes, a year-on-year increase of 765 tonnes from last year’s 147,435 tonnes.

The reasons he gave for the slow growth include competition from neighbouring countries, shifting demand in the world market for Cambodian milled rice, and the fact that rice milling in Cambodia has only just started. “This slow growth should be worrying,” said Hean Vanhorn.

 “The growth is so little that it is difficult to count,” he said adding that “the success of the government’s strategic policy depends on our common effort. It’s difficult for me to evaluate if the goal will be realised because I work from one side of the issue”. He said Cambodian milled rice has reached markets in 58 countries.

The Ministry of Economy and Finance’s policy framework said that the Cambodian government aims to export 250,000 tonnes of milled rice by the end of 2012, representing 25 per cent of the 1 million tonne target for 2015.

Hun Lak, secretary general of the Federation of Associations of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises of Cambodia and general director of Mekong Oryza Trading, said there was a lot of competition with Vietnamese white rice in the European markets.

“We didn’t beat Vietnam on price so the European Union opted to buy rice from Vietnam,” he said. However, there was a lot of demand for Cambodian fragrant rice from Asian markets such as China.

In October, Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said besides processing milled rice for formal export, Cambodia has to combat the illegal export of approximately 2 million tones of paddy rice to neighbouring countries, 70 per cent of which is sent to Vietnam and the other 30 per cent to Thailand.

Cham Prasidh added that Cambodia needs $1 billion to buy the paddy rice to halt the export, but only has the capacity to buy $300 million worth of the paddy rice grown.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rann Reuy at reuy.rann@phnompenhpost.com

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