China has topped the list of buyers of Cambodian milled rice for the first five months of 2022, accounting for more than half of the Kingdom’s total exports of the commodity, which has seen a nearly 22 per cent year-on-year surge overall.
A report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries showed that from January to May, Cambodia’s milled rice exports to foreign markets reached 283,675 tonnes, an increase of 21.73 per cent year-on-year. Of that, in May alone, milled rice exports reached 62,537 tonnes, a surge of 54.28 per cent compared to that of the same time last year.
The report stated that the Chinese market bought up the most Cambodian milled rice at 149,477 tonnes, representing a 52.68 per cent year-on-year increase.
European exports reached 81,931 tonnes, rising by 28.88 per cent year-on-year, while ASEAN countries took in 25,691 tonnes, an increase of 9.06 per cent. Other destinations accounted for 26,606 tonnes, up by 9.38 per cent.
Exported milled rice varieties included fragrant milled rice (18,412 tonnes) in a 64.9 per cent year-on-year rise, long grain milled rice (95,539 tonnes), with a 33.68 per cent gain, and long grain parboiled rice (4,024 tonnes), representing a modest rise of 1.42 per cent.
Cambodia Rice Federation secretary-general Lun Yeng told The Post that the increase in milled rice exports was due to the January end of EU tariffs that had been imposed in 2019 as part of “safeguarding measures” aimed at protecting European rice producers.
He added that the market has begun returning to pre-tariff levels, with orders from China remaining steady and accounting for more than 50 per cent of total exports from Cambodia.
However, he noted that the export market largely favours fragrant rice, “which has the lowest profit margins, and is not as important as white rice. The price of fragrant rice has only increased by about 10 per cent due to the latest export being mostly white rice”, he said.
Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, highlighted that global food demand could be an opportunity for Cambodia to increase paddy rice production productivity and maximise milled rice exports.
“According to the [agriculture ministry] report, we see that … most of the ordering countries have demand for fragrant milled rice. Therefore, the ministry, as well as stakeholders, should establish an appropriate policy to promote the cultivation of paddy rice for the production of fragrant milled rice,” Vanak said.
“They should figure out how to turn Cambodian agricultural products from largely domestic use to a high-value export.”