Cambodia has asked Beijing to consider a deal that would commit Chinese state-owned China Oil and Foodstuffs Corp (COFCO) to buy over 400,000 tonnes of homegrown milled rice, or 25 per cent more than a recently completed arrangement, which could bring the Kingdom closer to its goal of exporting one million tonne of the processed grains in a single calendar year.

The deal would come in the form of the seventh in a series of memorandums of understanding (MoU), with the previous iteration – entailing 400,000 tonnes – having been rolled out in the fourth quarter of 2021.

The request was made at a virtual meeting on the sixth MoU, held on May 17 between Cambodian state-owned Green Trade Co, the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) and COFCO, according to a CRF statement.

“The two sides discussed the possibility of drafting a seventh MoU in the near future, and paving the way for more Cambodian milled-rice exports to China,” the statement said.

The meeting went over progress made in rice-related cooperation between the two countries, noting that per-annum Cambodian milled rice exports to China have grown from a mere 600 tonnes in 2011 to around 300,000 tonnes now, which clock in at roughly one-tenth of the East Asian country’s total milled-rice imports per year, according to the CRF.

City Rice Import Export Co Ltd CEO “Andy” Lay Chhun Hour confirmed to The Post on May 18 that: the sixth MoU took effect on November 2021 and was completed early this month; that a figure larger than 400,000 tonnes has long been considered for the seventh iteration.

Although affirming that exports are generally moving pretty smoothly, he acknowledged that, on occasion, and particularly during the harvest, too much rice is shipped into neighbouring countries in paddy form, leaving a shortfall of grains to be milled for overseas buyers.

Of note, the government had pledged back in August 2010 to export one million tonnes of milled rice by 2015.

However, the Kingdom has fallen short each year, at 538,396 tonnes in 2015, 542,144 tonnes in 2016, 635,679 tonnes in 2017, 626,225 tonnes in 2018, 620,106 tonnes in 2019, an all-time record 690,829 tonnes in 2020, 617,069 tonnes in 2021, and 637,004 tonnes last year.

CRF data indicates that last year’s milled-rice exports were to the tune of $414.29 million. This is equivalent to 34.38 per cent of the $1.205 billion in total exports of “cereals” – corresponding to Chapter 10 of the Harmonised System (HS) – posted by Customs (GDCE) for 2022.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reported that Cambodia exported 176,581 tonnes of milled rice in the first quarter of the year.

Fragrant rice contributed the bulk of the exports at 152,347 tonnes or 86.28 per cent, followed by white rice (18,739 tonnes; 10.61%), and parboiled rice (5,495 tonnes; 3.11%).

China was the largest buyer of Cambodian milled rice in the January-March period, accounting for 84,773 tonnes or 48.01 per cent, followed by the EU (56,313 tonnes; 31.89%) and ASEAN (9,920 tonnes; 5.62%), while 18 other countries and territories bought 25,575 tonnes or 14.48 per cent.

The Kingdom also exported 1.562 million tonnes of paddy – exclusively to Vietnam – of which 860,550 tonnes or 55.11 per cent were accompanied by phytosanitary certificates.