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Rice sector eyes rebound after small exports drop

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Rice exports reached 620,106 tonnes last year, a drop of almost one per cent from the 626,225 tonnes the previous year. Afp

Rice sector eyes rebound after small exports drop

Rice exports reached 620,106 tonnes last year, a drop of almost one per cent from the 626,225 tonnes the previous year, the Cambodian Rice Federation (CRF) said.

The total value of exports dropped more than four per cent last year from 2018, the Kingdom’s rice industry body added.

Coupled with the 1.43 per cent decline between 2018 and 2017, the modest drop marks the second consecutive year that exports have fallen.

According to a CRF report obtained by The Post on Wednesday, the total value of the Kingdom’s rice exports were valued at some $501 million last year, down 4.3 per cent from $524 million in 2018.

A breakdown of the data showed that the 202,990 tonnes to the Chinese market accounted for 40.73 per cent of rice exports, followed by 13.41 per cent, or 83,164 tonnes, to the Asean region and 13.84 per cent, equal to 85,847 tonnes, to other markets.

According to Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries data, Cambodia also exported 2.15 million tonnes of rice to Vietnam last year.

Meanwhile, rice exports to European markets declined steadily after the EU imposed tariffs on rice imports from Cambodia last January. Myanmar was also hit with the tariffs.

CRF secretary-general Lun Yeng blamed the decline on reduced demand from European markets, but he predicted that exports would rebound this year.

He said that the 400,000-tonne export quota to China, a drop in EU taxes from €175 to €155 per tonne and access to new markets, notably Australia and Brunei, would favour this year’s exports.

“I am optimistic that this year’s exports will experience strong growth and revenue will rebound,” Yeng told The Post.

He added that while the Kingdom had lowered the price of rice to address demand in the European market, the volume of fragrant rice exported to Europe had increased from 79 per cent in 2018 to 86 per cent last year.

“At the same time, white rice and parboiled rice exports fell from 21 per cent to 14 per cent,” he said.

Yeng explained that while Australia had previously banned rice imports, unfavourable weather conditions for rice cultivation had prompted it to allow imports and invest in Cambodia’s rice sector.

Thmor Korl Rice Import Export Co CEO Heng Pheng said his firm had exported the same amount of rice last year as in 2018, with the bulk to Malaysia.

He also warned that climate change would threaten future harvests of Cambodia’s top agricultural export.

“Based on quality and value, Cambodian rice still has plenty of opportunities for exports to international markets. I think that exports will see a boom this year, especially to the Chinese market,” Pheng said.

Cambodian Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng estimated the Kingdom’s rice production capacity to be at more than 10 million tonnes per year.

He said that rice exports are expected to increase this year provided there is strong cooperation between stakeholders, including farmers, rice millers, exporters and all authorities.

Heng added that along with increasing production capacity, developing new markets in Japan and South Korea were also important factors to ensure sustained growth.

“To increase rice export capacity for the international market, Cambodia needs to work together, while farmers have to commit more to contract farming,” he said.

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