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

  • Municipal hall releases map detailing colour coded Covid risks by commune

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng released an official map detailing the red, yellow and dark yellow zones within the city under the new lockdown orders for Phnom Penh announced on April 26. The designation of red, dark yellow and yellow corresponds to areas with high,

  • Phnom Penh unveils rules for post-lockdown transition

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration issued a set of detailed guidelines for the seven days to May 12 after the capital emerges from lockdown at the onset of May 6. In the 14-page document signed by municipal governor Khuong Sreng released on the evening of May 5, the

  • SBI LY HOUR Bank Launches Cross Border Money Transfer Service between Cambodia and Vietnam on RippleNet, utilizing DLT

    SBI LY HOUR Bank Plc and Hanoi-based Tien Phong Commercial Joint Stock Bank (TPBank) on Friday launched the first Cambodia-Vietnam money transfer service in real currency via RippleNet, provided by SBI Ripple Asia Co Ltd to provide safe, fast and convenient services. SBI LY HOUR

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a

  • Cambodia ready to exit LDC status

    Cambodia is well-prepared to minimise economic risks when it graduates from its Least Developed Countries status, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Commerce on May 7. Four LDCs – Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh and Nepal – met at a virtual workshop last week to explore potential

  • Tottenham Hotspur to wear ISF Cambodia logo on jerseys in match against Sheffield United

    Last year, the Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) – an NGO providing education to underprivileged children in Cambodia – made global headlines with its “socially distanced” football initiative. This year, a world-class football club – Tottenham Hotspur FC – will wear special edition jerseys to show their support for ISF