Five years after setting out an ambitious 1 million-tonne milled rice export target, the rice sector fell well short of the mark last year, exporting close to 550,000 tonnes, with industry experts cautiously optimistic over export increases in 2016.
The Agriculture Ministry’s report, released on Friday, shows that rice exports in 2015 were up 39 per cent compared to 2014, with exports shipping 538,000 tonnes of milled rice, with the sector managing 387,000 tonnes in 2014.
The completion of a 100,000-tonne export quota to China in April made the country the largest destination for Cambodian rice, followed by France and Poland. Jasmine and fragrant rice, led by phka romduol and phka malis, continued to dominate exports, accounting for 51 per cent of shipments, whereas 41 per cent of exports were white rice.
“We are always seeking negotiations for new quotas to China, which is the main reason for increasing rice exports and an achievement of the government,” Vanhan said.
Vanhan added that in order to fulfill China’s high standard requirement – a result of the Kingdom inking a new rice quota late last year – the ministry was inspecting the capacity of rice millers, as well as keeping an eye on hygiene and phytosanitary requirements.
He added that the drought situation affecting parts of the country would have only a slight impact on exports, but that there was 4 million tonnes of paddy in storage that could be used for exports this year.
While Cambodian exporters are making progress towards the 1 million-tonne target, Yang Saing Koma, former president of the Cambodia Center for Study and Development in Agriculture, said there would be an increase in exports this year, albeit a small one.
“The potential of milled rice exports is still limited, because there are no measures to control the cost of production” he said.
Long-talked about issues, such as the lack of capital, high transportation and electricity costs, were going to inhibit farmers from making progress on improving their production, according to Koma.
“Irrigation and technical expertise for rice farmers is still limited, as a result farmers cannot get high yields of rice,” he said.
The Sokha, member of the executive committee for global market promotion at the Cambodia Rice Federation, said that despite the increase in exports, profits were not mirroring this uptick in shipments.
“We have a lot of challenges in the rice market, such as exports from Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar, so rice exporters could not make as much profit as they have in previous years,” she said.
Despite not reaching the export target, Sokha said she was optimistic that the Kingdom could increase its shipments this year.
“We need to get a brand name for our high-quality jasmine rice, in order to build more confidence and spread to new markets,” she said. “Rice branding will help increase sales in the domestic and international market.”
According to the export figures, Amru Rice was the biggest exporter of rice last year, recording 11.3 per cent of shipments, followed by Khmer Foods Group and Golden Rice Cambodia.