Cambodia exported more than $96.3 million worth of milled and paddy rice in the first month of this year, providing positive signs for the industry on the whole, according to the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF).

Last month, the Kingdom earned $35.72 million from 53,036 tonnes of milled-rice exports to 34 countries and territories, up by 54.74 per cent from 34,273 tonnes in January 2021, CRF data shows.

The federation has set an 800,000-850,000-tonne target for milled-rice exports this year, according to its president.

For reference, January 2021’s milled-rice exports accounted for 5.554 per cent of the full-year total of 617,069 tonnes, which would suggest that the Kingdom could be on track to ship around 954,900 tonnes abroad in 2022.

Mainland China and Hong Kong were collectively the largest buyer of Cambodian milled rice over the month, accounting for 58.79 per cent at 31,181 tonnes, followed by 16 European countries (12,542 tonnes; 23.6 per cent), three ASEAN countries (6,277 tonnes; 11.84 per cent), and other destinations (3,072 tonnes; nearly six per cent).

Meanwhile, paddy exports reached 275,511 tonnes last month, with an estimated value of $60.61 million, most of which were shipped to Vietnam.

Last year’s milled-rice exports were to the tune of $418 million, reaching 56 countries and territories, and paddy sales amounted to 3,527,418 tonnes worth $845.95 million.

Milled-rice exports to the EU are expected to enjoy a considerable boost after safeguard measures imposed by the European Commission (EC) expired on January 18.

The EC, the EU’s executive arm, introduced tariffs on Indica rice exports from Cambodia and Myanmar that took effect on January 18, 2019, after an investigation indicated that a considerable rise in these imports were causing significant economic damage to EU producers.

The safeguard regulations required Cambodia to pay import duty of €175 ($200) per tonne in the first year, €150 per tonne in the second, and €125 per tonne in the third.

Additionally, the Kingdom also stands to benefit from the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) framework to compete on the bloc’s markets.

On August 12, 2020 the EC partially withdrew its EBA trade preference scheme from the Kingdom. The suspension affects one-fifth or €1 billion of the Kingdom’s annual exports to the EU’s 27-nation bloc.

However, milled rice is notably not one of the items affected by the partial withdrawal, which means Cambodia now enjoys zero tariffs on exports of the processed grain to the EU, from the onset of January 18.

CRF president Song Saran predicted that China’s 400,000-tonne import quota for Cambodian milled rice and a pick-up in orders from European markets would stimulate growth in exports this year.

“First-quarter projections signal that this growth will likely persist at least through February and March, on the back of larger and better rice harvests, and factors arising from increasing market liberalisation,” he told The Post on February 6.

Other forces set to drive milled-rice exports are improvements in crop quality as well as production and processing, along with burgeoning investment in silos and warehousing, he said.

“These investments are playing a vital role in optimising and expanding Cambodian milled rice exports in a more stable fashion to ensure growth in the coming years.”