Cambodia earned nearly $737 million from the export of milled rice and paddy to 49 countries and territories in the first five months of 2023, with China and the EU ranking as the first and second largest buyers of the processed grains.

Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) data released on June 9 show that individually, the Kingdom shipped 278,184 tonnes of milled rice worth $191.64 million via 48 exporters to 49 destinations, as well as 2,142,483 tonnes of paddy to the tune of $545.26 million.

These figures indicate that the milled rice and paddy exported over the January-May period were worth a per-kilogramme average of 68.89 US cents and 25.45 US cents respectively.

The CRF noted that the exported paddy would yield 1.37 million tonnes of milled rice, or about 64 per cent of its original weight.

Broken down by variety of milled rice in terms of tonnage, “fragrant” represented the lion’s share at 83.49 per cent, followed by “white” (10.87%), “parboiled” (3.71%) and “organic” (1.93%).

By export destination in terms of value, China imported the most at 42.43 per cent of the total, followed by 25 EU countries (37.93%) and four ASEAN nations (8.86%). The remaining markets bought 10.78 per cent.

For comparison, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reported that China imported 149,477 tonnes – or 52.69 per cent – of the total 283,675 tonnes exported by the Kingdom in January-May 2022.

The CRF noted that last month saw Cambodia’s inaugural formal shipment of milled rice to the Philippines, weighing in at 2,575 tonnes.

Amru Rice (Cambodia) Co Ltd CEO Song Saran on June 11 shared with The Post that his company’s exports to its primary destinations – the EU and US – continues to grow, adding that plenty of retailers are buying its products.

“We mainly export to Europe, and organic rice. We’ve received a lot of support from the retail market there. Of course, China remains a big market for milled rice but my company mainly exports to Europe and the United States,” he said, hinting that Amru Rice’s milled-rice exports increased by around one-tenth year-on-year in the first five months of 2023.

Although Saran affirmed that the company’s exports have been in positive growth territory, he believes that there may be speed bumps ahead for the rice business at large.

“We’re also concerned about climate change’s effects on the grain, though this worry is not unique to us – it is shared by people all across the world,” he added.

City Rice Import Export Co Ltd CEO “Andy” Lay Chhun Hour also pointed out to The Post on June 11 how large a market China has become for Cambodian milled rice since Beijing committed to buy the grains.

He disclosed that his company exported “around 40,000 tonnes” of milled rice to China in the January-May period, making a “slight” increase. “I’m optimistic that China will remain our largest market … we’ve gained a lot of support from the Chinese thanks to the quality of our milled rice.”

Meanwhile, the CRF is in talks with Beijing on a deal that would commit Chinese state-owned China Oil and Foodstuffs Corp (COFCO) to buy more than 400,000 tonnes of homegrown milled rice as Chinese demand climbs.

The agreement would come in the form of the seventh in a series of memorandums of understanding (MoU), with the previous iteration – entailing 400,000 tonnes – having been rolled out in the fourth quarter of 2021.

CRF data indicates that last year’s milled-rice exports were to the tune of $414.29 million. This is equivalent to 34.38 per cent of the $1.205 billion in total exports of “cereals” – corresponding to Chapter 10 of the Harmonised System (HS) – posted by Customs (GDCE) for 2022.