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Rice export target a big task

A woman prepares rice for packaging in front of a store in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district
A woman prepares rice for packaging in front of a store in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district. Scott Howes

Rice export target a big task

Analysis

The pace of Cambodia’s rice exports are expected to slow this year. Unable to maintain the steady rate of previous years, the export volume for the first half of 2014 is much the same as it was this time last year.

At the end of June, milled rice exports had reached 178,000 tonnes for the year, barely above the 176,000 exported for the first six months of 2013.

And with the government’s looming target of 1 million tonnes exported in 2015, the trend suggests it will be a difficult goal for the industry to reach.

Sok Puthyvuth, president of Cambodia Rice Federation, told the Post yesterday that the deceleration of exports this year was caused by external factors, such as the release of Thailand’s rice stockpiles causing lower prices on the international market, which meant fewer orders for Cambodian rice.

“We have the same cake to divide between more and more people,” Puthyvuth said, referring to the international demand for rice remaining stable this year while market supply continues to rise.

“It is now the market for the buyers, but it is not for the seller.”

Puthivuth expects Cambodian rice exports in 2014 to remain similar to last year’s, forecasting an end of year total of about 400,000 tonnes.

But there are still domestic infrastructure problems to overcome, according to Song Saran, CEO of Amru Rice.

Saran said the lack of capacity at ports was one example of how the sectors export potential is being restricting.“In fact, I should have exported 2,000 tonnes more of rice [in June] but it has not left, it is remaining at the port,” he said.

Saran estimates that the industry could have exported another 30,000 tonnes already this year if the ports were operating more efficiently.

In 2009, the first official year of recorded exports, Cambodia sold 12,600 tonnes of rice overseas. Helped by EU trade preferences, exports have grown year on year, to 205,000 tonnes in 2012 and to a record 378,000 tonnes in 2013.

But, in the lead up to the 2015 target, it appears the export rate will plateau this year.

Mey Kalyan, a senior adviser at the Supreme National Economic Council and a co-writer of the country’s rice exports policy, said yesterday that competition from other rice-producing countries means there will be peaks and troughs in Cambodia’s exports, but having defined an export target has significantly advanced the industry.

“We have identified all the challenges in the rice industry. From the rice field, seeds, fertiliser, irrigation, the cost of production and milling challenges, to a lack of finance and many other issues, we will overcome these; we have already solved some problems, “he said.

“When having a clear goal, we have been trying to do the work together. Even if we can achieve 80 per cent of the goal when the time comes, it is still a good result,” he said.

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