VIETNAM, the world's second-largest rice producer, plans to lease Cambodian farmland to grow rice in areas close to the border, officials said this week.
Doan Ngoc Pha, deputy director of the Agriculture and Rural Development Department of An Giang province of Vietnam, which borders Cambodia, told the Vietnamese Thanh Nien News on Tuesday that the move was aimed at stopping Cambodian rice smuggling to Vietnam.
"Vietnamese companies will be encouraged to lease land in Cambodia and ... allowed to export rice to Vietnam," Doan Ngoc Pha was quoted as saying.
Ung Samey, Prey Veng governor, told the Post on Wednesday he will meet officials in Vietnam to discuss the issue.
"My province has set aside 10,000 hectares of farmland ... for leasing at the border," said Cheang Orm, governor of Svay Rieng province, said Wednesday.
The Interior Ministry has issued instructions, however, that no land on the border can be leased to a foreign country unless it has already been demarcated with border markers.
Vietnam's embassy spokesman was unavailable for comment Wednesday.
Mao Thora, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said exact figures of rice exports to Vietnam were difficult to determine because of the high level of unofficial trade.
"The ministry has tried really hard to cover exports between ... people at the border," he said, adding that Vietnamese officials have previously informed the ministry that Vietnam imported one million tonnes of Cambodian rice last year, about one-sixth of the Kingdom's total annual rice production.