Even as a shipping-container shortage and rising transportation costs stymie the growth of milled rice exports to European and other Western markets, Cambodia managed to ship out 3,119,829 tonnes of the crop abroad, worth $957.30 million, in the first 10 months of 2021, according to the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) on November 5.
The CRF said in a statement that the Kingdom exported 460,169 tonnes of milled rice, valued at $323.47 million, to 55 countries and territories, the top five of which bought just over 79 per cent of the total, in terms of tonnage.
Mainland China, including Hong Kong and Macao, topped the list of buyers at 229,177 tonnes (49.80 per cent of the total export market share), followed by France (50,951 tonnes, 11.07 per cent), Gabon (36,588 tonnes, 7.95 per cent), Malaysia (30,656 tonnes, 6.66 per cent) and the Netherlands (16,338 tonnes, 3.55 per cent).
Meanwhile, paddy exports totalled 2,659,660 tonnes, with an estimated value of $633.82 million.
CRF president Song Saran told The Post on November 7 that favourable weather conditions and improved irrigation systems have boosted farmers’ harvests this year, contributing to the high momentum of paddy and milled rice exports.
He said: “As we have seen, the rainfall has been good in 2021, it’s been favourable for our farmers to harvest more. Secondly, our irrigation system is better prepared to manage watering the dry season paddy, so that also contributes to increasing the amount of the crop.”
But shortages of containers and rising shipping costs remain barriers to Cambodia’s milled rice exports to distant markets such as those in the EU and other Western countries, he said.
He explained: “While there is demand for exports from long-distance markets, we face some obstacles related to transportation factors, that is why we export a lot of paddy, especially to the Vietnamese market in 2021.”
On the other hand, he said, China has remained open to the Cambodian milled rice market during this difficult time. Although exports to other markets have declined, shipments to China have increased significantly, he added.
“The main reason is the transportation problem, but China is still providing containers and has facilitated our shipments so far, while we experience a shortage of containers to other markets.
“We are still facing a crisis due to container congestion in major ports, such as in the US, EU and UK,” he said, predicting that the predicament could leave “an impact that could last until the end of 2021 or possibly the first quarter of 2022. But maybe we’ll see an improvement in 2022”.
Signatures of Asia Co Ltd CEO Chan Sokheang also cited the lack of containers and the sharp rise in shipping costs as barriers to his company’s exports.
“Our exports are still interrupted by shipping traffic. Second is the shipping-cost issue, it has increased almost six-fold, and is affecting our exports now,” he said.
According to CRF, fragrant varieties accounted for 324,364 tonnes, or 70.488 per cent, of milled rice exports in January-October, including organic, parboiled, and long-grain white rice.
Last year, the Kingdom exported 690,829 tonnes of milled rice, valued at nearly $539 million, marking an 11.40 per cent surge in volume from 2019, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.