Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Manila rice demand highlights challenges

Manila rice demand highlights challenges

Manila rice demand highlights challenges

THE Philippines’ National Food Authority aims to begin importing Cambodian rice “at the very latest next year”, though experts say the  domestic rice industry must overcome hurdles as it aims to become a major exporter of the staple crop.

NFA officials met with Cambodian counterparts earlier this month on a fact-finding mission, aiming to sign an updated Memorandum of Understanding for rice shipments to the Philippines, according to NFA Chief of Staff Gilbert Lauengco.

Thailand and Vietnam – the world’s largest and second-largest exporters of rice, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation – currently supply much of the Philippines’ needs, he said, but added, “We are studying the possibility of Cambodia as an alternate source [of imports].”

Last month, Reuters news service claimed the Philippines planned to import 1.3 million tonnes this year. But experts say Cambodia faces key challenges to tap this demand, particularly in competing with its established neighbours.

Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture President Yang Saing Koma said the Philippines generally imports from Thailand or Vietnam, based on prices.

“Cambodia needs to compete with Vietnam and Thailand in terms of price and quality,” he said.

Several countries are interested in Cambodia’s rice – including the Philippines as well as China, Bangladesh and nations in the Middle East and Africa – but productivity needs to be increased to meet this demand.

Gordon Peters, Senior Consultant at Emerging Markets Consulting, said the Philippines was a major importer, accounting for 8 percent of the world’s total last year.

“A strategic relationship with the Philippines as a Cambodian rice buyer is a great sign for Cambodia’s long-term rice export plans,” he said.

“There’s an opportunity to create a Cambodian brand since one of the major buyers is looking at the Cambodian product,” he said. “This can be leveraged into other markets as Cambodia begins to see results from its national rice strategy and increases in yields and export-quality rice.”

However, Cambodia’s rice production was more costly than its neighbours due to excessive electricity costs, as well as a somewhat higher cost of doing business. “This includes infrastructure and logistics, and soft costs such as time spent waiting at the border,” said Peters.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has made increasing rice exports an administration priority, targeting exports of 1 million tonnes of milled rice by 2015.

Phou Poy, President of the Cambodian Rice Millers Association, said the Philippines indicated its interest in buying its rice, but had not yet specified a time frame. Manila would aim to import hundreds of thousands of tonnes from Cambodia, beyond the Kingdom’s current milling capacity, he said.

“They may be reluctant to buy from us, and seek to buy from other countries that can supply rice in large amounts,” said Phou Poy.

Gilbert Lauengco said milling capacity could be improved in Cambodia, though it could at present provide “certain amounts” to the NFA. He declined to reveal the amounts the authority requested from Cambodia. “We can’t give an actual number – it’s based on the shortfall,” he said.

The National Food Authority was also considering providing milling facilities to the Kingdom. It aimed to sign an updated Memorandum of Understanding with either the Ministry of Commerce or the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries – after having talks with both, he said.

The Philippines had been overtaken by Indonesia as the world’s largest rice importer by volumes, he claimed, but added that even as Manila aimed to improve domestic production of rice, it would likely need to continue imports for at least three years.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING SIEAM BUNTHY

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • AstraZeneca jabs touch down in Phnom Penh airport

    The first shipment of 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/SII vaccine which was provided through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility was delivered to Phnom Penh International Airport on March 2. The rest of the COVAX provided vaccines will arrive in Cambodia at a later date.