The Cambodian Rice Federation has pushed for the full implementation of a code of conduct which bars Cambodian firms from exporting cheap rice from neighbouring countries under its own name.
The code of conduct sought to reassure the European Union that Cambodia was not flouting the Everything But Arms agreement, under which the Kingdom exports goods duty-free due to its status as a low-income country.
But some rice exporters say the code of conduct, which was signed in February 2014, has not been followed as stringently as was originally intentioned.
“For me, the code is good, but the implementation is not that effective,” said Khan Kuthy, general manager of newly-established rice miller Brico.
“As far as I know, no one has been punished.”
A statement from the CRF said a “laissez-faire” environment and consequent lack of investigation has led to price declines and blows to the rice’s international reputation.
Although it remains to be determined which procedures will be established to tackle the problem, David Van, senior advisor to the CRF, urged the creation of a disciplinary committee to investigate potential flouting of the code.
“When you look at the market, some people have been selling way, way below the price, and you have to wonder where the heck the rice is coming from,” he said.
Under the code of conduct, existing penalties include revoking an exporter’s certification of origin, effectively barring it from exporting.
But finding the culprits may not be so easy, said Sok David, vice president of Golden Rice Cambodia.
“It’s hard to prove - the price [also] depends on productivity, on the raw material, on the factory,” he said.
“There is a mechanism . . . but you have to find fault,” he added.
Meanwhile, the CRF agreed in February to levy a $1 fee per metric tonne of fragrant rice and $0.50 per metric tonne of long grain white rice for the CRF’s yearly budget.
The new fees, which came in to force on March 1, is to be spent on CRF operations, educating farmers, and promoting Cambodian rice abroad.