THE International Finance Corporation has thrown its weight behind the government’s bid to increase rice exports with the launch of a five-year programme to help the rice-milling industry.
Backed by a US$15 million multi-donor trust fund, the IFC programme is aimed at developing energy efficiency in the sector by promoting rice-husk gasification technology – which generates power from organic materials – and effective waste- and equipment-management.
The measures will run alongside in-depth training courses for millers.
IFC resident representative in Cambodia Julia Bricknell said that reducing energy costs would ultimately help milers’ bottom line.
“Energy efficiency is a relatively new area for our support, but it is increasingly important for us and will continue to grow as a priority,” she said.
“We were already working in the rice sector on a number of issues, and it is such an important [sector] for Cambodia.”
An initial assessment on the current energy-consumption situation found that “most rice millers do not follow good practices in waste management, energy use and clean technologies”.
“Most rice mills are operating with obsolete machinery, consuming excessive energy ... using high-capacity diesel engines available at the time of installation of these mills,” she said.
The IFC held four one-day workshops in Battambang this June to raise awareness, and they were attended by more than 100 rice millers.
Meng Saktheara, Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy's director general of the industry department, said the government was backing the IFC’s work, as rice was a “top-priority sector”.
“Firstly, it is linked to the development of the rural economy. Secondly, rice has great market potential, and, thirdly, it has the competitive advantage in the country because we are an agricultural country,” he said.
“We have to compete with very big rice exporters like Thailand and Vietnam.
“We’re working with many different partners to get this domestic capacity up and to meet the market requirements for quality and efficiency.”
Brickell said she expected the impact of the current programme to be significant.
This week, Ministry of Commerce data showed that exports of milled rice rose by 2,356 percent in the first half of this year, compared to 2009.