With voting set to take place on July 2 to elect the next president of the Cambodian Rice Federation (CRF), the organisation has pledged to further strengthen its mandate, while rice millers and exporters claim they have lost confidence in the organisation’s ability to achieve necessary reforms.
Penn Sovicheat, director of the domestic trade department at the Ministry of Commerce and a member of the CRF election committee, said that the next president would continue to push for the government’s elusive 1 million tonne rice export target.
This will be the second time that the CRF has elected a president since the organisation was formed, and the internal structure has been tweaked to be more inclusive, he said. Now, the sitting president will be accompanied by five vice presidents chosen by the 16 members of the board.
“The new president will follow the plan outlined in the previous mandate,” Sovicheat said, adding that there would be no lag time as the structural reforms were already in place.
However, Kann Kunthy, chief executive officer of Battambang rice miller Brico, said that even though the CRF had been restructured to include more voices, he had little hope for the organisation.
“I have no confidence in the new mandate, since I have already lost confidence in the current mandate,” he said. “With one president and five vice presidents, that structure will not allow for reforms. There will be no efficiency and no action.”
“In order to survive the rice industry, we need the government to take action, not just have plans.”
Moul Sarith, secretary-general of CRF, countered and said that the next president will be more productive and will promote not only short-term interests, but introduce a long-term strategy. “The next mandate will produce results, as long as we have five committees that meet with the five vice presidents to insure there is an action plan,” he said.
Phou Puy, director of Baitong (Kampuchea) PLC, welcomed the revised structure, but still questioned the next presidents ability to lead. “It is good to have a chance to vote, as it is a kind of democracy,” he said. “But I can’t say how it will actually affect the rice industry.”
Song Saran, CEO of AMRU Rice, was more optimistic that the next president could produce tangible results as he addressed the most pressing concerns.
“If the next president can address farmer’s and rice miller’s concerns, we will be able to compete in the market,” he said. Transportation and production costs should be the biggest concern, he added.