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UAE considering Kingdom’s rice

Cambodia plans to expand its exports of milled rice and other agricultural products to the United Arab Emirates, Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said yesterday.

The UAE seeks a replacement for the milled rice it would otherwise import from Thailand, where the worst flooding in decades has damaged the country’s all-important rice crop.

Cham Prasidh reckoned the UAE could serve as a new market to absorb the Kingdom’s surplus of 2.4 million tonnes of unmilled rice, among other agricultural products, as Cambodia increased its milling capacity.

He noted that the UAE has expanded its import of milled rice to US$1.4 billion a year, a market that Cham Prasidh said was small but holding significant potential.

“The [$1.4 billion] sum is sufficient to buy Cambodia’s surplus of milled rice,” he said.

Cambodia exported 147,004 tonnes of milled rice in the first nine months of 2011, up from more than 42,000 tonnes for all of 2010.

The Kingdom aims to export 1 million tonnes of milled rice by 2015.

Cham Prasidh added that no deals were signed during the trip, saying it was only an introductory meeting between the two countries.

However, he did say there was potential for the UAE to import Cambodian rice not just for consumption but also for resale to other countries in the Middle East.

“What is important for us is that I took a look at the United Arab Emirates as a pedal to export our fragrant milled rice into their market. If we can do that, it means that we can grab the Muslim market,” he added.

He said the UAE might also serve as a market for the Kingdom’s processed halal food, or food deemed edible by Islamic law, and that the relationship may help to bring more investors to Cambodia.

Lim Bun Heng, president of Loran Import-Export Company, said the Middle East market seeks only high-quality rice, but Cambodia’s fragrant rice has the potential to serve that region.

“The United Arab Emirates is a good market because . . . Arab people eat our fragrant rice,” he said.

“I hope that in 2012, there will be a contract between our country and the United Arab Emirates.”

Loran Import-Export Company is Cambodia’s biggest rice exporter in terms of export volume.

The United Arab Emirates will send a delegation to the Kingdom early next year to do its own market research, in addition to seeking business opportunities and strengthening co-operation between the countries, Cham Prasidh said yesterday.

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