The government has allocated an additional $10 million towards a special loan package for rice mills to buy more paddy at reasonable prices, particularly from farmers in Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces where price reductions amid the ongoing harvests have been especially pronounced.
The move has been met with largely positive responses, with Song Saran, president of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body, affirming the keenness of mills among the CRF’s ranks to use the loans and offer local farmers suitable rates for their crops.
The state-owned Agricultural and Rural Development Bank of Cambodia (ARDB) confirmed the additional sum – to be provided by the Ministry of Economy and Finance through the ARDB – in a November 21 statement, noting that this brings the size of the loan package to $93 million.
The ARDB acknowledged the recent paddy price fluctuations seen during the peak harvest seasons in major rice-producing provinces – especially Battambang and Banteay Meanchey – which the bank said have prompted farmers to sell their crop in larger batches.
“This makes it impossible for mills to buy all that paddy, which has led to lower prices compared to those at the beginning of the season. Therefore, the ARDB calls on farmers … to set up harvesting schedules with their local mills that avoid overlaps which could further bring down paddy prices,” the statement said.
The bank expects the extra funds to markedly increase the paddy purchasing capacity of mills, other processors, and exporters in the near-term, while preventing unscrupulous traders from low-balling prices.
CRF’s Saran agreed, telling The Post on November 22 that the additional capital would enable members to step up paddy purchases and provide Battambang and Banteay Meanchey farmers with agreeable rates for their grain.
“The [additional $10 million] will facilitate the production and harvest of rice in the western provinces, such as Battambang and Banteay Meanchey, where lots of Phka Rumduol is being picked,” he said.
Saran had mentioned two days earlier that CRF members were buying top-grade Phka Rumduol paddy at 1,040 riel ($0.25) per kilogramme from farmers in the two Thailand-adjacent provinces.
Phka Rumduol, a type of long-grain jasmine rice, has become a top choice of international buyers and is one of the varieties exported under the “Angkor Malys” certification mark. The Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute says it released the variety for farmer use only in 1999, after 10 years of development and testing.
Saran voiced optimism that the extra funds would “rapidly” push up paddy prices. “We are committed to working with the government to buy more paddy for stock and ensure reasonable paddy prices for the people of the west,” he said.
He added that the CRF has sent and encouraged members based in eastern localities, such as Phnom Penh and Prey Veng, Kampong Cham, Kampong Speu and Kandal provinces, to buy paddy from western areas, stressing that mills in the east are busy contending with full stockpiles and a lack of funds.
In a social media post on November 18, agriculture minister Dith Tina had commented that, so far, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey farmers appear to be content with the prices offered, and that rice mills are actively buying the grain. “The team will keep close tabs to ensure that our farmers don’t pointlessly lose out,” he said.
Attached to a number of separate posts uploaded to the minister’s official Facebook page that day were images of large lorries being loaded with paddy purportedly bought at guaranteed above-market rates.