Agriculture minister Dith Tina has shed light on the trade of paddy rice in Battambang – Cambodia’s leading rice-producing province – in a bid to curb what he dubs a “social media fact distortion campaign” to destabilise the market.

While acknowledging that the prices of paddy rice have fluctuated, Tina took issue with recent social media claims that prices were nosediving.

“The prices of paddy rice had risen remarkably before falling, but remain relatively high for Sror Nge,” he explained in reference to wild rice.

“With the current prices, farmers can still generate profits. In the future, our Sen Kra’op and Phka Romduol fragrant rice varieties will greatly benefit from the government’s ‘genetically pure rice seed’ policy,” he said in a September 10 social media post.

The Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) – the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body – announced that the recent surge in paddy rice prices is a temporary phase, which is now stabilising. Both the government and relevant NGOs have ramped up efforts to assist farmers to maximise their profits during this period, through facilitating transportation and exports.

In its September 8 press release, the CRF cited paddy rice variant UM5451 and fragrant rice as two types that had seen unprecedented jumps in both international and domestic markets from July to September.

On the same day, Yang Saing Koma, secretary of state for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said the Free On Board (FOB) price for fragrant paddy rice stood at $820 per tonne, while the regular variety was at $720 per tonne.

“The price has decreased by $15 per tonne for fragrant paddy rice and $10 per tonne for white rice variety since the end of August. Overall, however, the pricing remains favourable for farmers,” he added.

The CRF stated that current field rates for wet rice have dipped slightly, ranging from 1,090 to 1,250 riel per kg. Despite the reduction, farmers continue to profit.

Compared to 2022, the current price has experienced a 40 per cent change, fluctuating from 900 riel per kg to between 1,300 and 1,500 riel per kg at the Vietnam border.

In a previous statement, the CRF and agriculture ministry attributed the hike to external factors such as the suspension of exports by India and Myanmar – a move aimed at assessing the impact of El Nino-related drought on their food security.

The increase was further accelerated as other import destinations – also concerned about the potential impacts of the weather phenomenon – stocked up, pushing the value from $500 to $700 per tonne.

“The surge was merely a short-term fluctuation. International prices have now returned to normal levels of around $580 per tonne,” the CRF stated, while urging farmers to remain informed about shifts in the market.

Saing Koma told The Post on September 10 that the government has been paying close attention to how it can maximise the income of rice producers. Early-season rice that was harvested in August and September this year cost from 500 to 700 riel per kg to produce.

He explained that farmers were able to sell wet rice on the domestic market on September 8 for between 1,100 to over 1,200 riel per kg. Therefore, they earned a profit of 400 to 700 riel per kg, depending on their cost management and the quality of their rice.

“We are increasing support for farmers, by reducing their costs and enhancing the quality of rice. We have so far deployed 186 volunteer youth and agricultural officials to 200 of the Kingdom’s largest producers of rice,” he said.

CRF president Chan Sokheang told The Post on September 10 that September of this year had seen the highest prices in 30 years. He also noted that agricultural fertiliser was more affordable than in 2021 and 2022.

“It is a very profitable time, as prices had gone up, while fertiliser and pesticides had fallen in price. Although the price rises were short-lived, we and the ministry worked hard to help the farmers get their produce to market as swiftly as possible,” he said.

He noted that while the price of wet rice in the rice fields had fallen slightly – from 1,090 to 1,250 riel per kg, depending on the variety – farmers were still profiting.

According to a September 9 CRF report, in the first eight months of this year, Cambodia exported over 400,000 tonnes of milled rice, equal to 58 per cent of the planed 700,000 tonnes, to the tune of over $278 million. It also exported nearly 3 million tonnes of unmilled rice, worth over $814 million.

The report explained that 55 companies had exported milled rice to 56 different nations and territories.

Mainland China and Hong Kong have taken the largest individual share, at 143,818 tonnes, worth $91.64 million, while 26 European countries received 164,682 tonnes, for a total of $113.73 million.

Five ASEAN nations purchased 36,692 tonnes for $23.64 million, while the remainder was split between an additional 22 countries and territories.