As Thailand sells its rice reserves and reforms in Myanmar are rewarded with more access to markets abroad, Cambodia’s total exports of milled rice are on the decline, falling more than 10 per cent in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period in 2013, according to industry insiders.
The Myanmar Rice Federation said in March that the country, once a major rice exporter to the world before being hit with sanctions, is at a turning point.
Once barred from trade and isolated, Myanmar is benefiting from duty-free preferences enjoyed by Cambodia and other emerging markets due to a broad range of political reforms passed since President Thein Sein came to power in 2011.
In the previous three to four years, the country has exported about a million tonnes of rice. That figure should double by 2020.
Thailand is coming out of a failed rice-subsidy scheme that left the country with more than 10 million tonnes of milled rice.
At least one million tonnes have been sold since March, according to industry publication Oryza, citing the US Department of Agriculture.
Data from the Secretariat of One Window Service for Rice Export Formality showed that Cambodia exported some 84,330 tonnes of rice between January and March, down from 95,228 tonnes in the same period last year, an 11 per cent drop.
Kim Savuth, who runs his own rice exporting company, Khmer Food, while also serving as the president of the Federation of Milled Rice Exporters of Cambodia, said there is nothing to fret over, since most of the decline came last month.
“We are not in the severe situation, as it just dropped in March,” he said.
Ken Ratha, spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, said the ministry has set up a committee to establish a National Rice Millers Federation to deal with issues like these.
“We do hope that after the establishment, it will be a big help for their concerns and to boost the export of milled rice,” Ratha said.
“It doesn’t mean that we do nothing now. All of the challenges have been taken into account,” he added. “We are urging more investment in the rice sector. That will be the big help to boost the industry to compete with others.”
Savuth, from the Federation of Milled Rice Exporters of Cambodia, said that in order to compete, the country should promote its recent brand victories, referring to a strain of Cambodian rice winning the World’s Best Rice Award for the second year in a row.