The Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) has helped set up designated sites in Battambang and Banteay Meanchey to purchase paddy rice at guaranteed above-market rates, in a bid to prevent unscrupulous traders from driving down prices by undercutting them during the harvest season, according to the apex rice industry body’s chief.

The move comes on the heels of a call by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to rice millers to buy the grain from farmers at reasonable prices.

The ministry remarked in a November 15 notice that the post-monsoon harvest season generally falls between November and mid-December each year, adding that mills are now teeming with activity and influencing paddy prices, much like last year.

The ministry called on growers in the two northwestern border provinces not to be driven by the fear of declining prices into sacrificing the quality of their paddy by cutting the crop too early and saturating the market with inferior product, thereby – perhaps ironically – further pushing down prices.

The notice specifically mentioned Phka Rumduol as one of the key varieties harvested during this period.

Phka Rumduol is a type of long-grain jasmine rice that has emerged as a top choice of international buyers, and is one of the varieties exported under the “Angkor Malys” certification mark. The Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute says it released the variety for farmer use only in 1999, after 10 years of development and testing.

CRF president Song Saran told The Post on November 20 that, following the ministry’s notice, “all” of the federation’s members based in Kampong Thom, Kampong Cham, Prey Veng, Kampong Speu and Battambang provinces are buying top-grade Phka Rumduol paddy at 1,040 riel ($0.25) per kilogramme from farmers in the two Thailand-adjacent provinces.

He said that CRF had not only lent a hand in stabilising paddy prices, but also arranged transportation for farmers to reach the designated sites, so as not to risk being low-balled by middlemen. “So far the situation is under control,” Saran assured.

The CRF head shared that, per kilogramme on average, number-one grade Phka Rumduol is now valued at nine baht or 1,035 riel, number-two grade goes for 8.5 baht or 970 riel, while number-three grade fetches 8.1 baht or 920 riel.

Kao Thach, CEO of the state-owned Agricultural and Rural Development Bank of Cambodia, told The Post on November 20 that, two days earlier, he had met with the CRF, and mill owners among its ranks, to encourage them to buy paddy from the farmers deemed at-risk, and prevent prices from falling.

“Recently, purchase orders from abroad seem to have dwindled, requiring mills to buy paddy for stockpiling,” he said.

“Andy” Lay Chhun Hour, group president and CEO of City Rice Import Export Co Ltd, a major rice milling enterprise based in Battambang, told The Post on November 20 that his company has been buying 1,500-1,800 tonnes of paddy from farmers in the two target provinces each day.

He affirmed that City Rice too is offering about nine baht or 1,040 riel per kilogramme of top-grade Phka Rumduol paddy.

Chhun Hour shared that he has bought 40,000 tonnes of freshly-cut paddy of jasmine varieties and plans to take in a total of 60,000 tonnes this harvest season.

And in a social media post on November 18, agriculture minister Dith Tina commented that, so far, farmers in Battambang and Banteay Meanchey appear to be content with the prices offered, and that rice mills are actively buying the grain.

“The team will keep close tabs to ensure that our farmers don’t pointlessly lose out,” he said.

Attached to a number of separate posts uploaded to the minister’s official Facebook page were images of large lorries being loaded with paddy bought at the designated sites, and a video of one woman expressing gratitude to Tina, agriculture officials and the media for their support and publication of her plight and that of many of her fellow farmers.

“Farmers are busy bringing their crop of rice to be sold at Treas Commune Hall [in Banteay Meanchey’s Svay Chek district], at the reasonable rates that they had expected,” she said in the video.

“Thank you Your Excellency [Tina], ministry and all departments of agriculture for keeping your promises.”