Top rice industry lobbyists and exporters have expressed concern over a possible slowdown in export growth for the commodity early next year following reports of considerable damages to fields across the country as a result of extensive heavy rainfall and flooding in recent months.
A preliminary report by the Ministry of Economy and Finance indicated that, as of October 12, more than 200,000ha of rice fields nationwide were found to be significantly affected by the floods, of which 85,000ha suffered material damage, although over 48,000ha are considered to be recoverable.
This represents roughly one-eighteenth of Cambodia’s total area under rice cultivation which, according to the World Bank, stood at 3.6 million hectares as of 2021.
Song Saran, president of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body, emphasised that rice yields in the more productive provinces may be seriously hindered should the floods persist.
“This year’s devastating floods have affected many of our farmers. We’ve seen some of the people who had yet to complete their harvests suffer from the flooding, and the damages caused to their rice fields.
“When the water recedes, farmers will replant, but that will take about four months, so it will unquestionably hamper our exports in the beginning of next year to a degree, since we won’t have the paddy to mill,” he said.
Saran also raised the issue of climate change, which is said to be triggering an increase in extreme weather events, commenting that the phenomenon’s links to floods and natural disasters, as well as
food security risks, provide cause for common concern around the world.
“Andy” Lay Chhun Hour, group president and CEO of City Rice Import Export Co Ltd, a major rice miller based in Battambang province, confirmed to The Post that Kampong Thom, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces had been seriously affected by this year’s floods, which will likely be reflected in early-2023 export figures.
“I think our exports for this year won’t see any major issues, but they may fall early next year, due to flooding of the rice fields of farmers who were not done harvesting,” he said.
The CRF’s Saran agrees, suggesting that September-October exports may be a bit weak in the aftermath of the floods, but predicting a pick-up in November-December, when the next crop of Phka Romduol varieties is typically ready for harvest, granted that there is sufficient supply of unspoiled paddy to mill for export.
“We hope that new rice seeds can be replanted, once the government provides them to the farmers after the water recedes.
“We are now waiting for the final report from the agriculture ministry and the National Committee for Disaster Management on the extent of the impact and the amount to be replanted, so that we can assess how much paddy will be available for us to mill for export,” he said.
The CRF reported that in the January-September period, Cambodia exported 449,325 tonnes and 2,357,674 tonnes of milled and paddy rice, respectively, worth $286.90 million and $563.54 million, the former of which marked a 10 per cent rise in terms of tonnage.
By category, premium fragrant rice varieties accounted for the lion’s share of milled-rice exports, at 177,481 tonnes, or 39.50 per cent, followed by fragrant rice (128,753 tonnes; 28.65 per cent) – exclusively of Sen Kra’op types, long grain white rice (123,318 tonnes; 27.45 per cent), parboiled rice (10,680 tonnes; 2.38 per cent) and organic rice (8,160 tonnes; 1.82 per cent). This means that more than 900 tonnes (0.2 per cent) were of other varieties.