THE National Rice Millers Association (NRMA) announced Wednesday that it exported its first 3,460 tonnes of milled rice to France in the first quarter of 2009, which officials said marked an important step in the expansion of rice exports.
"We expect that the NRMA will be able to export 12,000 tonnes of milled rice to France this year," NRMA President Tes Ethda said.
But he said many challenges remained to increasing rice exports - not least, competition from Vietnam, which sells milled rice for between US$325 and $360 per tonne. The rice sent to France cost an average of $450.
"I think that European markets need both quality and quantity, and there are many more ways that Cambodia needs to reform in order to compete," he said.
Last year the NRMA set aside 20,000 tonnes of unhusked paddy rice, which they plan to mill and export.
Thon Virak, deputy director general of the Ministry of Commerce's General Department of Foreign Trade, confirmed the NRMA's export of rice to France, saying "200 or 300 tonnes" of rice were being exported each week. On Sunday, Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun said that in 2009 Cambodia still had over 2 million tonnes of rice in stock that would be used to bolster its exports.
"The government is trying to look for markets to export rice abroad, as exporting more rice is a way of encouraging farmers to increase rice productivity," he said.