Gambia’s recent announcement that it would ban rice imports in about three years to spur local demand will only have a small impact on Cambodia, which sends a portion of its annual output to the west African country and other nations on the continent, data shows.
“Come 2016, we will ban the importation of rice into this country in order to strengthen local food industries as well as promote food self-sufficiency and good health,” the president said in a speech transmitted by a public broadcaster on Sunday,
Rice is one of Gambia’s food staples, but imports, mainly from Southeast Asia, account for a large share of what the population consumes.
Song Saran, chairman and chief executive officer of AMRU Rice, the second largest exporter of milled rice, said the coming prohibition would not impact Cambodia’s rice market.
“It is true that the African region is the new market for our product, but Gambia is just a small market of our rice, and it is only for long grain white rice [as opposed to the other main export, fragrant rice],” Saran said. “Gabon, Ivory Coast and Senegal are among other major importers in Africa, and those nations are more important.”
According to the secretariat of the one window service for rice exports, in the first five months of this year, Cambodia exported 146,854 tonnes of its rice, a 127 per cent increase compared to same period last year.
Among major market destinations, Africa imported at least 10,000 tonnes, almost 10 per cent of Cambodia’s total market output during the period. In the same time span, Gambia imported from Cambodia a mere 144 tonnes.
A large portion of the current output is heading to countries in the European Union because of tax exemptions and preferential trade agreements. France topped the list of importers with a little more than 23,000 tonnes during the first five months of this year, followed by Poland with about 22,000, then Thailand, Malaysia and China.
Cambodia plans to export at least 1 million tonnes of its rice by the end of 2015.
Additional reporting by AFP