Officials from the Ministry of Commerce said they are working with their Philippines counterparts to finalise a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on rice trade, following their February 1-3 official visit to the archipelagic country along with a delegation of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF).
According to a ministry statement, the visit was aimed at expanding rice exports. During their tour, the Cambodian delegation met with Philippine Minister of Commerce Alfredo Pascual and Emmie Liza Perez-Chiong, president of the state-run Philippine International Trading Corporation, among other stakeholders.
They also discussed import mechanisms and pricing with several Filipino rice importers, who expressed interest in importing high-quality Cambodian rice.
“The Philippines is prepared to open a direct rice trade with the Kingdom, provided we can agree on the terms, including quantity, quality and price,” said the ministry.
CRF president Chan Sokheang said the Philippines is not only a rice producer, but one of the largest importers in Asia. In 2022, the country imported 3.82 million tonnes, mostly of plain white rice.
He added that initially, the CRF envisioned a market share of about 100,000 tonnes. In the past two years, the Kingdom has exported only around 100 tonnes to the Philippines. Its rice market, however, is very competitive so the CRF is exploring ways to reduce shipping costs.
“We are looking at the possibility of exporting as many as 100,000 thousand tonnes this year, but this will depend on whether competitive pricing can be guaranteed. Even Thailand exports very little rice to the Philippines, as the margins are so slender,” he continued.
He said the federation has the support of the government to control transport costs, so now is the ideal time to begin looking into the Philippine market.
According to Sokheang, the federation will hold an internal meeting to discuss the new market with his members and determine the best way to export the first 100,000 tonnes.
Song Saran, CEO and founder of Amru Rice – the leading producer and exporter of organic rice in the Kingdom – said the opportunity to expand into the Philippines is an excellent one for Cambodian exporters.
He said he was aware that the Philippines is a large market, but he wanted to receive more details about the proposal and whether sufficient funds for rice storage during the harvest season would be made available.
“We have never exported to the Philippine market. I am pleased that the commerce ministry and CRF are exploring this option on behalf of the hardworking Cambodian farmers,” said Saran.
“The Philippines is one of the largest rice markets in ASEAN, and we produce a lot of rice here in Cambodia. My company buys direct from farmers, so I think we are likely to be competitive in this exciting new market,” he continued.
The commerce ministry said that in late February or early March, at the invitation of the CRF, Philippine rice importers will visit Cambodian rice mills to meet the producers directly. This will build their relationships and improve trust, it said.
“The visit is scheduled to take place during the first round of the dry-season rice harvest and may lead to the signing of a purchase contract,” it added.