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Shipments of organic rice picking up steam

A farmer harvests rice at a farm in Battambang province earlier this year.
A farmer harvests rice at a farm in Battambang province earlier this year. Heng Chivoan

Shipments of organic rice picking up steam

Cambodian rice millers and exporters are increasingly eyeing the export of organic rice to the European Union and the United States, after shipments of this niche product increased this year.

Hean Vanhan, deputy general director of the general department of agriculture, said that organic rice exports were considerably small compared to export of other varieties of rice, with the Kingdom exporting only 2,800 tonnes for the first 11 months of the year. Exports for the more popular varieties of rice was close to 457,000 tonnes this year.

“We cannot put much focus on organic rice because the yield of organic paddy is lower than normal rice,” he said. “And only farming organic rice will not give farmers much income.”

Vanhan said that given the higher cost of organic rice, there were only a few markets that could afford this rice, including the US and some EU members. He added that while it was assumed that organic rice was safe and healthy, other varieties sold by the Kingdom were equally safe.

Amru Rice, one of the major rice exporters in Cambodia, started exporting organic rice this year and has so far shipped 1,100 tonnes to the EU and US. It sees potential in this new market, according to the firm’s CEO Song Saran.

“Cambodia has land and labour resources to grow organic rice,” he said, adding that his firm would look to increase shipments to 3,000 tonnes next year.

He added that given the price of such rice was higher, almost $700 to $1,300 per tonne, farmers could see higher margins on these sales, around 20 to 30 per cent.

Amru Rice is currently sourcing its rice from the Preah Vihear district, after signing a deal with eight farmer cooperatives in the province to purchase 2,500 tonnes of organic fragrant paddy rice.

As consumer and buyer confidence in Cambodia’s organic rice grew, Yang Phirom, a business adviser with the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture, said exports had increased by 270 tonnes this year to 746 tonnes.

“Consumers now trust the quality of our organic rice, which means that demand is increasing,” he said. “Not only in the international market, but also in the domestic market too.”

While the domestic market accounted for 26 per cent of CEDAC’s rice sales so far this year, 34 per cent went to the US, 15 per cent to the Netherlands and 11 per cent to France.

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