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Report shows China demand will fuel growth of rice exports

Farmers put harvested rice into a mobile threshing machine in Battambang province in 2015.
Farmers put harvested rice into a mobile threshing machine in Battambang province in 2015. Heng Chivoan

Report shows China demand will fuel growth of rice exports

Cambodia’s rice production and exports will likely continue to grow this year and next year despite low milling rates, buoyed by strong demand from China, according to a report from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In the report released last week, the USDA forecasted a 4 percent year-over-year increase in rice production during the 2017-2018 harvest seasons, estimating the total haul at 8.1 million tonnes.

Rice in Cambodia is typically harvested twice a year, once during the rainy season in November and December, then again during the dry season beginning in about February or March and typically running through April.

According to the report, this year’s dry season crop had benefitted from favourable weather conditions and had been harvested at a standard pace.

Official rice exports climbed 17 percent to reach 578,000 tonnes during the 2016-2017 harvest season, and the USDA estimated that the next two harvest seasons would see an additional 8 percent increase in exports each year, reaching 622,000 tonnes during the 2017-2018 harvests and 672,000 tonnes in the 2018-2019 harvest season.

Stagnating demand from European countries has been offset by an increase in demand from China, as rice exports to the latter country rose by 57 percent last year.

Additionally, the report notes that Cambodia’s exports only accounted for between 2 and 4 percent of China’s total rice imports last year, suggesting there was a potential for additional growth.

The rice production estimates are similar to those reported by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) last month.

Also included in the FAO report was an estimate that 44 percent of Cambodia’s total rice exports would be smuggled out of the country this year, with total legal and illegal rice exports increasing by 5 percent to reach 1.35 million tonnes of rice.

The USDA did not provide estimates on smuggled or unrecorded rice exports.

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