Cambodia plans to begin the formal export of milled rice to the archipelago nation of Maldives, a month after its Phka Rumduol jasmine variety was crowned as the “World’s Best Rice” for a fifth time, as part of a campaign to raise the profile of the local grain on the regional and international stages.

At a ceremony marking the beginning of work to revamp the 95.27km National Road 41 on the morning of December 26, Prime Minister Hun Sen revealed that he would visit the Maldives next month to discuss milled-rice sales as well as stepping up tourism ties.

“The Maldives is a rice-deficient country, so we want to forge links through tourism and milled rice exports. The Maldives may be a small country, but she also has demand [for milled rice] due to her large number of tourists. Our milled rice is superb, so she can bring milled rice from our country,” he said.

Speaking to The Post on December 26, Lay Chhun Hour, group president and CEO of City Rice Import Export Co Ltd, a major rice miller based in Battambang province, suggested that the more markets that Cambodian rice can establish a presence on, the more well-known it will become.

“We certainly welcome the effortsof our government, which is always trying to find new markets for our agricultural products and expand [existing ones], no matter how large or small, and our milled rice is becoming more and more known,” he said.

Chhun Hour is seen as the main person behind Phka Rumduol’s participation at the TRT (The Rice Trader) World Rice Conference in Phuket, Thailand on November 17 that awarded it the World’s Best Rice award for the fifth year.

Phka Rumduol is a type of long-grain jasmine rice that has emerged as a top choice of international buyers, and is one of the varieties exported under the “Angkor Malys” certification mark.

Lun Yeng, spokesman for the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body, confirmed to The Post that Cambodia has never officially exported milled rice to the Maldivian market. He welcomed government plans to start doing so.

“Having more markets would be a boon for the Cambodian rice sector. Whether big or small, it’ll raise the profile of our milled rice on regional and international markets,” he said.

Straddling the equator in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives stretches along a length of 871km north-to-south and covers an area of around 90,000sq km, only 298sq km of which is dry land.

Most of the Maldives’ 1,192 islands form part of a double chain of 26 atolls that are grouped together into 21 administrative areas. The country reportedly had a population of 543,620 at end-2021 – up 0.57 per cent year-on-year – with 36.86 per cent women.

Banner year

Milled-rice exports have been performing well this year, amounting to 509,249 tonnes in the first 10 months of 2022, up 10.67 per cent from the 460,169 tonnes registered in the same time last year, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reported.

Fragrant rice contributed the bulk of the exports at 348,501 tonnes or 68.44 per cent, followed by white rice (148,933 tonnes; 29.24 per cent), and parboiled rice (11,815 tonnes; 2.32 per cent).

China was the largest buyer of Cambodian milled rice in the January-October period, accounting for 231,873 tonnes which were up 1.18 per cent year-on-year, followed by the EU (165,630 tonnes; up 43.43 per cent) and ASEAN (48,253 tonnes; up 10.19 per cent), while other countries and territories bought 63,493 tonnes, marking an 11.48 per cent drop, the ministry said, indicating that four of the 27 EU countries did not import any through official channels.