Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Italy demands ‘fairer’ rice deal

Italy demands ‘fairer’ rice deal

An employee works at a rice shop in Phnom Penh
An employee works at a rice shop in Phnom Penh Italy is arguing that its locally grown rice is unable to compete against tax-free imports from Cambodia. Eli Meixler

Italy demands ‘fairer’ rice deal

Italy has demanded that the European Union restrict Cambodia’s duty-free import status, as concerns over the survival of that country’s rice sector appear to be reaching a fever pitch.

According to rice industry website Oryza, the Italian government has officially submitted a request to the EU calling for a new safeguard clause which, if approved, could end EU nations’ zero-tariff treatment of rice imports from Cambodia.

“Abnormal increase of import is reducing quotations of European rice, bringing it under production costs level; this is strongly damaging our farmers and millers,” Italy’s vice minister for economic development was quoted as saying in Oryza’s report, posted late last week.

Under the Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement, which is granted only to developing countries, Cambodia pays zero tax on all non-weapon exports to EU member states, including rice.

The official complaint came a month after rice industry website risoitaliano.eu leaked excerpts from a dossier prepared by the Italian government. The document claims that the special treatment given to Cambodia by the EU triggered a 22 per cent decline in annual rice plantings in Italy.

The dossier adds that, with Italian rice prices at about $870 per tonne and Cambodian prices at $590 per tonne, Italian producers are unable to compete. The dossier requests that the EU impose a tariff of $230 per tonne on Cambodian rice imports to level the playing field.

Earlier this month, an Italian agriculture collective of farmers, including representatives from the Italian Association of Rice Industries, protested in some of Italy’s largest rice-growing regions.

EU Ambassador to Cambodia Jean-Francois Cautain yesterday said he was awaiting information from EU headquarters in Brussels and was unable to comment on Italy’s complaint.

Cambodian Rice Federation (CRF) president Sok Puthyvuth said there were mixed feelings in the Cambodian rice industry over the seriousness of Italy’s claims and that the EU had repeatedly assured the rice body of the future of Cambodia’s EBA status.

“We feel we still have the support from the EU. Some say we need to start bilateral talks with Italy; some say not to worry,” Puthyvuth said, adding that he hoped to commence communications with the Italian government as early as this week.

“We want to solve this problem but there needs to be better communication and there needs to be some compromise,” he said.

Ken Ratha, spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, said the government was waiting for the CRF to clarify Italy’s complaint before issuing an official response.

Cambodian rice exports to the EU reached 380,000 tonnes at the end of 2013, up from 200,000 tonnes at the end of 2012.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen gets Covid, shuns G20, APEC summits

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said he has tested positive for Covid-19 in Indonesia, where he is slated to attend the G20 summit in his capacity of the ASEAN chair. In a social media post addressing the Cambodian public, he said: “Before leaving Cambodia, I always

  • Moody’s sets outlook rating to ‘negative’ for Cambodia

    US global rating agency Moody’s Investors Service Inc on November 15 announced that it downgraded Cambodia’s outlook from “stable” to “negative” and maintained its B2 local and foreign currency issuer ratings. “The negative outlook reflects a deteriorating external position as illustrated by the severe

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Korean first lady paves way for ill boy’s surgery

    A 14-year-old boy with congenital heart disease who was lucky enough to meet with South Korean first lady Kim Keon-hee may get the chance of a lifetime and receive surgery and treatment at Asan Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea. After seeing his plight, many

  • Hun Sen’s Covid infection caused by ‘weakened antibody’ after summit

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said exhaustion from heavy workload before and during the recent ASEAN Summit may have led to him contracting Covid-19 due to his weakened immune system, while rejecting speculations that the infection was caused by leaders of some countries who did not

  • Kingdom’s rice crowned world’s No1

    Cambodia’s Phka Rumduol jasmine variety has been crowned the World’s Best Rice for the fifth time at the TRT (The Rice Trader) World Rice Conference in Phuket, Thailand on November 17, according to leaders of the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body. Phka Rumduol