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Prime minister admits 1 million tonne goal is unlikely for rice sector

Prime minister admits 1 million tonne goal is unlikely for rice sector

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday admitted that the government target of reaching 1 million tonnes of rice exports by 2015 is likely to fail due to a lack of milling capacity and funding.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony for students at the National Institute of Education yesterday, Hun Sen said this year’s rice export figure clearly proves that achieving the 1 million tonne target next year is unlikely.

“From January to November, Cambodia exported only around 330,000 tonnes of rice, very far behind the 1 million tonnes we planned to achieve,” he said.

The Cambodian government set the target in 2010.

The PM blamed the failure on a lack of investment in rice milling and paddy storage facilities.

“Our rice production has overtaken rice milling capacity. Most of the rice millers do not have capital to buy paddy and then stock it for export, which results in Cambodia losing value-added gains for the rice industry,” he said.

“We cannot ban farmers from selling their paddy to traders as we do not have the capital to buy paddy for stock,” he added.

Citing a report from the Council Development for Cambodia (CDC), which allegedly shows a number of approved investments in rice milling facilities, the premier said he was optimistic that Cambodia’s export capacity would improve in the coming years.

Sok Puthyvuth, president of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), and also the son-in-law of Hun Sen, agreed that Cambodia was unlikely to reach the 1 million tonne target. He said the uncontrollable offloading of rice stock to buyers had made it a tough year.

“There have been problems in funding, which have left rice millers and exporters unable to stock paddy in large amounts. We could have achieved a higher export target for this year, but our members are not confident in entering big deals because of the lack of stock,” he said.

Puthyvuth said the CRF is working to improve infrastructure in the Kingdom’s rice sector, and is also considering taking out additional loans to buy paddy to stock in large amounts for export.

“With the plan and the loan, we will hopefully be able to bring the export figure closer to the target next year,” he added.

Last month, the Post reported that the Chinese government had approved in-principal a $300 million to build a series of warehouses aimed at assisting the Kingdom’s rice industry with its storage woes.

The loan is to be used to build more than 10 warehouses equipped with dryers capable of storing at least 1 million tonnes of Cambodia’s paddy. The facilities will be located along key rural production areas, urban markets and ports along the country’s value chains.

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