Cambodia formally exported 36,900 tonnes of milled rice worth $28.83 million to 34 markets in the first month of the year, with the EU buying the largest share in terms of both volume and value, respectively at 48.2 per cent and 46.6 per cent, according to a new Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) report.

Previous statistics from the CRF, the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body, show that this represents 30.4 per cent and 19.3 per cent declines from January 2022 in terms of tonnage and value, respectively, as exports to mainland China and Hong Kong more than halved on-year.

The grains went to 20 countries in the EU (17,795 tonnes; $13.44 million), mainland China and Hong Kong (15,045 tonnes; $11.77 million), Malaysia and Singapore in ASEAN (1,871 tonnes; $1.09 million), and Gabon, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and Saudi Arabia (2,189 tonnes; $2.53 million), the CRF report indicated.

Broken down by variety, premium aromatic “Angkor Malys” rice represented the lion’s share at 22,810 tonnes, followed by Sen Kra’op (SKO) fragrant (9,358 tonnes), white (1,721 tonnes), parboiled (1,867 tonnes) and organic (1,144 tonnes).

Additionally, the Kingdom exported 252,714 tonnes of paddy rice in January, the CRF said, without mentioning their value. However, other statistics provided in the report suggest that the figure falls in the range of $62.665-63.675 million.

This puts the average per-kg value of January’s milled and paddy rice exports at 78 US cents and 25 US cents, respectively, compared to the corresponding figures for full-year 2022 of 65.0 US cents and 24.18 US cents.

For reference, previous CRF figures indicate that, in January 2022, the Kingdom had exported 53,036 tonnes of milled rice worth $35.72 million – of which 31,181 tonnes or 58.79 per cent were shipped to mainland China and Hong Kong, and 12,542 tonnes or 23.6 per cent went to the EU.

The federation pinned the 51.75 year-on-year dip in milled-rice shipments to the Chinese markets on the “nearly two-week” Lunar New Year holiday, which came about a week and a half earlier in 2023, with January 22 marking the beginning of the year of the rabbit – or cat in Vietnamese culture.

On the other hand, CRF secretary-general Lun Yeng put the 41.9 per cent year-on-year rise in milled-rice exports to the EU down to high demand and low prices, the quality of the Cambodian grains, and the expiration of safeguard measures imposed by the European Commission (EC) in January 2022.

For context, the EC, the EU’s executive arm, introduced tariffs on Indica rice exports from Cambodia and Myanmar that took effect on January 18, 2019, after an investigation indicated that a considerable rise in these imports were causing significant economic damage to EU producers.

The safeguard regulations required Cambodia to pay import duty of €175 ($187) per tonne in the first year, €150 per tonne in the second, and €125 per tonne in the third.

Yeng remarked that prices of Cambodian milled rice on foreign markets vary due to type as well as the costs to transport it there, and assured that the commodity is in a strong market position and can successfully compete with rival regional products.

Barring a major unforeseen crisis, demand for Cambodian milled-rice on EU and other overseas markets will keep growing, buoying exports, he predicted.