Rice farmers and millers are confident that the price for premium fragrant paddy will continue to increase over the next two weeks as the annual harvest season for Phka Rumduol wraps up. However, farmers complain that they are still facing long-standing problems that could see profits squeezed.
Hun Lak, vice president of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), said that after the first week of the Phka Rumduol rice harvest, the cost of paddy rice would be expected to increase from 1,150 riel to 1,200 riel per kilo.
“The price of paddy rice will continue to increase over the next two weeks, and it’s more stable this year than last because of high demand,” he said, adding that the price of paddy rice suffered last year in September when Thailand flooded the rice market and prices in Cambodia fell to 700 riel per kilo.
According to Lak, the current price of paddy rice is profitable for farmers, and the most successful farmers this harvest season will be those who followed the government’s instructions on ensuring seed quality, fertiliser and pesticide control.
According to CRF, the price for paddy rice purchased from the field was valued at 1,070 riel per kilo while the price millers are paying is at 1,150 riel per kilo.
Den Srey Lim, deputy director of Agricultural Development for Battambang province’s agricultural cooperative Chamroeurn Phal, who represents 220 family farmers on 1,152 hectares of rice fields, said that she anticipated the harvest this year would be a good one.
“We are happy with the paddy rice price this year, unlike last year,” she said, referencing the protests which erupted among farmers last year when the price of rice plummeted and profits disappeared.
Chray Son, deputy director of Capital Food, said that despite heightened profits this harvest season, claims from the government that they have propped up the sector are over-exaggerated. The state-run Rural Development Bank has allocated $50 million in emergency funding for rice millers, with only $9 million utilised by the private sector as of the end of last month.
“The price of paddy rice is better than last year because farmers haven’t been harvesting all at once, leading to large stockpiles of rice without storage or drying facilities to process them,” he said. “The stable price is not due to the government’s intervention at all, but is thanks to the industry itself, which has increased the number of drying and storage facilities this year.”
He added that farmers are still facing challenges, including lack of water irrigation, which have yet to be addressed.
Va Saroeurn, president of Mongkol Agricultural Development Cooperative in Battambang province’s Sangke district, who represents 500 farming families on about 1,000 hectares of rice fields, said that farmers are still not seeing significant profits because of damage caused by unaddressed challenges including drought and rampant pests. He added that only 40 percent of his members can properly access the water system.
“Despite the high price of rice, we’re still not making much profit because we cannot access water for our fields,” he said. “Most farmers in my cooperative have lost profits this year due to low production and lack of irrigation.”