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The rice is right: Exports skyrocket

The rice is right: Exports skyrocket

EXPORTS of milled rice surged by about 2,360 percent in the first six months of this year compared to 2009, after the government encouraged production of Cambodia’s “white gold”.

In the past six months, the government has spearheaded a raft of measures aimed at boosting the country’s rice-export capacity.

Officials updated the national rice policy, doubled Rural Development Bank capital to US$36 million and scrapped licence requirements for exporters to spur development.

The government hopes to improve the quality of Cambodia’s rice to increase exports to foreign markets, such as Europe. The measures so far appear to have had a marked effect.

Data released by the Ministry of Commerce’s CamControl department showed that just 4,369 tonnes of milled rice was exported from January to June 2009.

But in the first half of this year, the Kingdom sent 107,291 tonnes of milled rice abroad – an increase of 2,356 percent. Exports were worth $13.438 million this half, up from $2.193 million in 2009.

Cambodian officials have welcomed the increase.

“Since the government encouraged development, we have seen [the sector] improve dramatically — in terms of both farming methodology and production capacity,” said director of Information and Statistics Department at the ministry, Kong Putheara.

He said that last year, the government installed tax preferences for foreign investors, and that the European Union allowed more Cambodian rice to enter its markets, sparking growth.

President of the Cambodian Rice Millers’ Association, Phou Puy, hailed the figures as a “starting point” for Cambodia to produced high-quality rice in line with neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Vietnam.

But he warned challenges were still ahead as companies sought footholds internationally.

“We don’t know clearly about the market so we have to look for [buyers] and sell at lower prices to get the market share,” he said. “Next year will be the time to export as much as we can.”

A secretary of state for the Ministry of Agriculture, Chan Tong Ive, said that an open agricultural policy had changed business patterns for some farmers, who had shifted into intensive farming that upped yields.

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