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Importers stall progress for regional rice alliance

Importers stall progress for regional rice alliance

Cambodian officials said a plan to set up the ASEAN Federation for Rice Millers and Rice Traders would help facilitate an increase in export quality and quantity, but the plan is progressing slowly due to opposition from rice-importing countries.

Mao Thora, secretary of state for the Ministry of Commerce, said the initiative began a few years ago, but its progress is being held back because rice-importing countries are disputing the plans on the grounds of losses they might suffer when the federation is formed.

“The situation is seen differently by importing and exporting countries. Importing countries think they will lose out when we establish our federation,” he said. “It’s been quiet for a while, but they are still discussing our plan,” he added.

The establisment of the federation will bring common benefits for rice-exporting countries. Cambodia in particular stands to benefit in terms of seeking new markets and with its new plan to export 1 million tonnes of rice by 2015.

“After discussions, the benefit is for everyone – both for the countries that export less rice and for countries that export a lot of rice,” said Mao Thora. “We don’t exploit each other. It is to help each other as ASEAN members. We want to stabalise our exporting in a sustainable way.”

Kim Savuth, chairman of the Federation of Cambodian Rice Exporters, said that some countries seem to ignore the Cambodian prime minister’s initiative for the regional federation for political purposes. In his view, how quickly the regional federation can be realised depends on the will of the political leaders in all the participating countries.

“According to a personal meeting I had with senior Minister Cham Prasidh, he said he wants it to happen late this year. But I don’t know about the technicalities and political disagreements.”

Kim Savuth’s statement echoes those of Thai officials in a Bangkok Post article published yesterday.

Tikhumporn Natvaratate, deputy director general of the Thai Foreign Trade Department, said Thailand will propose the conceptual framework for the partnership during the ASEAN Summit that runs from November 17 to 18 in Phnom Penh.

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

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