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Kingdom takes steps to attract milled-rice buyers

Kingdom takes steps to attract milled-rice buyers

A nationwide survey was under way by the Ministry of Commerce’s Rice Exporter Union to measure Cambodia’s milled-rice industry in order to give international buyers an accurate picture of the Kingdom’s current capacity, insiders said yesterday.

Although data for the survey was still being collected, those insiders pointed to Cambodia’s well-known problems such as a lack of agricultural processing capacity and inferior rice-seed quality.

Rice Exporter Union chairman Thon Virak, who also serves as general director of the state-owned Green Trade Company, said poor seed quality was a big impediment to attracting foreign buyers.

Those buyers sought the highest-quality seeds, as the rice harvested from them offered the smallest risk of breaking, he said. Unbroken rice fetches a higher price on the international market.

“We have the right amount of rice output, but investors are worried about the seeds,” Thon Virak said. “There are a lot of unpurified seeds in Cambodia that break a lot.”

Overall milling capacity had been, and continued to be, an issue, Thon Virak said, despite growth since Prime Minister Hun Sen last year announced the goal of exporting a mill-ion tonnes of milled rice by 2015.

Data collection already completed in Prey Veng, Banteay Meanchey and Battambang showed 20 milling machines in operation, processing between five and 30 tonnes of milled rice an hour, Thon Virak said.

The remaining survey results would be released early in 2012 once all the country's provinces had been covered, he said.

Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodia Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture, said seed selection was crucial to helping the Kingdom reach its 2015 export goal, as most target markets sought out higher-quality fragrant rice.

Many Cambodian farmers chose not to plant fragrant rice because its output was below that of other seeds, Yang Saing Koma said.

“People need to grow seeds with more output to support their families,” he said, although the number of farmers planting fragrant rice has grown over the past few years.

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