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Drought hits Cambodia's rice exports

Drought hits Cambodia's rice exports

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Paddy rice is dried and milled on Koh Dach, in the Mekong River near Phnom Penh. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post

Rice exports this year had been flat compared to last year because of the many challenges growers were facing, insiders said this week.

Lim Bunheng, president of Loran Import-Export Company and Rice Exporter Association, said that according to reports, the amount of exported rice had reached only about 100,000 tonnes this year.

The data shows exports were no better than last year for the same period, as exports for the first eight months of the year reached 106,000 tonnes, according to the Econony and Finance Ministry’s review on the promotion of paddy production and rice exports during 2010-2011.

The report said that as of August last year, official milled rice exports reached 106,000 tonnes.

The report listed expectations for 2012 to reach only 180,000 tonnes, equal to 18 per cent of the Kingdom’s 2015 export target of one million tonnes.

The rice export target of 250,000 tonnes for the this year is equal to 25 per cent of 2015’s target and 0.75 per cent of total world trade.

“Exports are less than planned, but not much below the target because there will be a large amount exported in November,” Lim said, adding: “We don’t know yet if we will reach the target, but [at least] we think we will be near it.”

Phoeun Phean, a paddy-rice trader in Pursat, said the drought in Pursat and Battambang provinces was pushing paddy crop prices higher.

White paddy rice is up between 200 and 300 riel (US$0.04-$0.07) per kilogram compared to the previous year.

Each day, Phoeun buys about 10 tonnes for export to Thailand or for sale to local rice millers.

Hem Sophal, Director of Planning Department at Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery, said the drought this year had devastated 9,990 hectares of paddy fields and affected 122,297 hectares across the country.

The damage was mostly in Battambang province, with 19,289 hectares affected and half of it destroyed, he said, adding that last year, the amount of land affected by drought was around 1,000 hectares only.

Cambodian officials often raise awareness of severe flooding in the months following droughts. In 2011, the flood affected 420,000 hectares of paddy fields, and left 230,000 hectares damaged.

Hem Sophal said that due to a forecast of severe flooding this year, officials were preparing rice seeds for deseminating to farmers after the water recedes.

Son Kunthor, president of the Rural Development Bank, said Cambodian rice was competitive with other countries in the region including Myanmar, which produces large amounts of paddy rice and has imposed a similar rice export policy recently.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rann Reuy at [email protected]

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