Cambodia's rice exports have seemingly reached their peak, as annual exports have failed to reach government targets for the last few years.
Last week, the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), one of the leading institutions for promoting the industry, elected Song Saran, the CEO of Amru Rice (Cambodia) Co Ltd – a major rice processing and export company – as its new president.
Saran has been involved in the industry since 2011, through the establishment of Amru Rice.
In an interview with The Post on Sunday, Saran said one of the first things he will do as president is to train farmers, whom he called “the foundation” of the industry.
“The first thing I would like to do is promote market connectivity for farmers through contract farming, and reduce production costs by encouraging the use of seeds.
“We want to implement a principle [for millers] on using their cash flow to buy rice [directly] from farmers during the harvest season.
“We’ll explain to millers how to manage their cash flow and expenditure, and prepare their taxes and other paperwork to develop into standard [institutions], which will simplify [the process] when they need loans for investments,” said Saran.
He said issues facing the Kingdom’s warehouses and drying silos cannot be overlooked and logistics development needs to be improved for competitiveness.
Cambodia exported 281,538 tonnes of rice in the first half of this year – up 3.7 per cent year-on-year.
The Kingdom has been seeking additional markets outside of Europe, as tariffs on rice exports to the EU were imposed earlier this year. China agreed in January to increase its import quota for Cambodian rice to 400,000 tonnes this year from a previous 300,000 tonnes.
As the new president, Saran is committed to pushing exports to China to meet the quota provided to Cambodia.
“Since tariffs were imposed on Cambodian rice to the European market, we have seen our exports to Europe drop by about 20 per cent. We have to plan our market better through diversification,” he said.
The government unveiled its plans to export one million tonnes of milled rice in 2015, but rice exports only reached just over 620,000 tonnes last year.
Saran claimed that Cambodia could achieve the one million tonne target over the next three years.
“We will work hard to re-shape the plan through all relevant sectors, both the private sector and the state, with the strong expectation of achieving the target of exporting one million tonnes of rice by 2022-2023,” said Saran.
He said participation from the financial sector would be crucial in boosting the rice sector. Financial institutions should provide more loans to millers and rice-producing communities, while large investors should consider investing in processing.