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Experts say year won’t pan out well for rice exports

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A farmer works in a parched paddy field in Kampong Speu province’s Kong Pisei district in 2012. Heng Chivoan

Experts say year won’t pan out well for rice exports

While the Kingdom’s rice exports have been declining for the past five months, industry insiders predict that the year’s total will fall as much as 10 per cent compared to last year.

The claims come as data show that rice exports in the first seven of the year have decreased by more than six per cent compared to the same period last year.

Hun Lak, vice-president of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) claimed that a slow start to the year could bring annual numbers down.

“We had a lot of orders in the beginning of the year, but we could not supply on time as we do not have enough paddy in stock,” he said, adding, “Most millers are constrained by limited storage capacities. It will be hard to surpass last year’s export figure.”

Last year, Cambodia exported 635,679 tonnes of rice, which was an increase of more than 17 per cent from the year before, according to figures from the Ministry of Agriculture.

However, over the first seven months of this year, Cambodia exported 297,080 tonnes of rice, which was a 6.3 per cent decline compared to the same period last year.

January and June were the only months this year where rice exports increased from their 2017 totals.

Hean Vanhan, director-general of the general directorate of agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture expected that the total rice export this year would decline around 10 per cent from last year.

“It is the first time that export figures have kept decreasing consecutively like this,” he said, claiming that storage capacity was to blame for the decline.

The country unveiled four new rice storage and drying facilities in July, a move which insiders said will help boost the country’s exports as well as maintain the local price of paddy.

Terms of a massive 250,000-tonne export agreement with Bangladesh have failed to materialise, with insiders further blaming a lack of storage facilities for the inability to meet demand.

Chray Son, deputy director of Capital Food, agreed that the year’s totals would go down, but was more conservative in his estimate. He speculated that the Kingdom would hit the 500,000-tonne mark.

“We still face price challenges with neighbouring markets ... and our storage still limited,” he said.

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