Cambodia earned $807.9 million from formal exports of milled and paddy rice in the first half (H1) of the year, as reported by the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body, marking a 31.2 per cent increase over the figure posted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for the same time in 2022. Milled rice made up just 28.37 per cent of that.

The Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) at the weekend reported that, in the January-June period, the Kingdom shipped 329,633 tonnes of milled rice worth $229.23 million to 52 countries and territories through 50 exporters, corresponding to 47.09 per cent of the 700,000-tonne target for 2023.

Broken down by variety of milled rice in terms of tonnage, “fragrant” represented the lion’s share at 85.08 per cent, followed by “long-grain white” (11.34%), “parboiled” (2.42%), “organic” (1.02%), and “short-grain white” (0.14%).

By export destination, two Greater China markets imported the most at 138,364 tonnes worth $88.96 million, followed by 25 EU countries (122,117T; $86.67M), four ASEAN nations (28,110T; $18.87M). The remaining 21 markets bought 41,042 tonnes to the tune of $34.73 million.

At the same time, Cambodia exported 2,224,913 tonnes of paddy to the tune of $578.67 million – exclusively to neighbouring countries – 55 per cent of which were accompanied with the appropriate certification.

These figures indicate per-kilogramme average values for the milled rice and paddy exported over the January-June period of 69.54 US cents and 26.01 US cents, respectively. The CRF last month estimated that from 1kg of paddy, one can expect to obtain about 640g of milled rice.

For comparison, the agriculture ministry, citing the National Phytosanitary Database, reported that in January-June 2022, exports of milled rice totalled 327,200 tonnes worth $279,756,000, while paddy – exclusively shipped to Vietnam – clocked in at 1,733,157 tonnes or $336,232,458, for per-kg averages of 85.5 US cents and 19.40 US cents. Hence, milled rice made up 45.42 per cent of the total value.

Speaking to The Post on July 9, Song Saran, president of leading rice miller and exporter Amru Rice (Cambodia) Co Ltd, predicted “positive signs” for Cambodian milled rice exports, especially of fragrant types.

In the first half, “Amru Rice’s exports increased by about 15 per cent [year-on-year], with our company focusing exclusively on organic and premium fragrant milled rice”, he said, noting that most of the grains shipped overseas were sent to either the US or Europe.

CRF president Chan Sokheang earlier revealed that the federation is actively exploring ways to boost Cambodian milled rice exports to China via a strategic partnership with Alibaba.

He disclosed that the CRF has already had three meetings with Alibaba representatives, and is now anticipating a proposal from the Chinese e-commerce giant to launch a dedicated promotional campaign for Cambodian rice on its platform.

“We have seen Malaysia and Thailand have their own campaigns to promote certain agricultural products on Alibaba. We are now looking forward to a similar initiative for Cambodian rice,” Sokheang noted.

Speaking at a January 5 press conference, agriculture minister Dith Tina reiterated a call for improvements in the quality of export-bound produce to command higher prices on international markets and increase profit margins, suggesting marketing initiatives tailored for foreign audiences.

According to the CRF, Cambodia last year exported 637,004 tonnes of milled rice worth $414.29 million, marking a 3.23 per cent uptick from 617,069 tonnes in 2021, as well as 3,477,886 tonnes of paddy valued at $841.09 million, all of which went to Vietnam.

These statistics mean per-kilogramme averages of 65.04 US cents and 24.18 US cents for milled rice and paddy, respectively, and that milled rice accounted for 33.00 per cent of the total value.

Of note, the CRF earlier this year reaffirmed its commitment to the goal of one million tonnes of milled-rice exports in a single year, selecting 2025 as a target date. The government had pledged back in August 2010 to export one million tonnes of milled rice by 2015.

However, the Kingdom has fallen short each year, at 538,396 tonnes in 2015, 542,144 tonnes in 2016, 635,679 tonnes in 2017, 626,225 tonnes in 2018, 620,106 tonnes in 2019, and an all-time record 690,829 tonnes in 2020.