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Trade talks aim to boost quota

A young woman pours rice on to a pile at a paddy in Battambang province earlier this year. A delegation from China is set to arrive on Monday to discuss Cambodia’s proposal to double rice exports to China.
A young woman pours rice on to a pile at a paddy in Battambang province earlier this year. A delegation from China is set to arrive on Monday to discuss Cambodia’s proposal to double rice exports to China. Heng Chivoan

Trade talks aim to boost quota

A Chinese trade delegation due to arrive in Cambodia next week has added to the hopes that the Kingdom’s rice export quota to China will be drastically raised.

The three-day visit, which will be led by China’s Vice Minister of Commerce Gao Yan, begins on Monday and will discuss strengthening trade ties with Cambodia, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

“This time, the visit will discuss the possibility of expanding trade cooperation between Cambodia and China. A rice deal and the possibility of exporting more agricultural products from Cambodia to China will also be on the agenda,” said Ministry of Commerce spokesman Ken Ratha.

Cambodian Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol sent a letter to Gao Yan in April seeking to double Cambodia’s rice export quota to 200,000 tonnes for the period between May 2015 and April 2016.

“It is expected that there will be detailed discussion of Cambodia’s request to double the rice quota to China to 200,000 tonnes,” Ratha said, adding, however, that no agreement or memorandum of understanding is expected to be signed.

Hun Lak, vice president of the Cambodia Rice Federation, said yesterday that he has high hopes for a positive response due to the successful implementation of the previous 100,000-tonne rice quota between the China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO) and the Cambodian state-owned Green Trade Company.

“[COFCO] ordered 100,000 tonnes and we successfully delivered it to them. It shows that we can supply on time,” he explained.

Lak added that the doubling of the Chinese rice export quota would help Cambodia diversify from the European market

“Although the other markets we supply now are doing well, especially the EU, we should not be too reliant on the EU market. We should expand the market in Asian countries, [and] China is a huge market for Cambodia.”

Export figures released by the CRF showed that China was the biggest importer of Cambodian rice for the first three months of 2015, importing 36,081 tonnes, followed by Malaysia and France.

Thanks largely to a boost in shipments to China, the Kingdom increased its exports to 75,867 tonnes overall in March, more than doubling the 37,676 tonnes exported the month before.

China is also looking to import more of Cambodia’s other agricultural products such as corn, bananas and mangos.

Agriculture and mining are other sectors that China is eyeing in Cambodia, said Lim Heng, vice president of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce.

Cambodia’s rich natural resources, agricultural products, cheap labour costs and investment incentives are significant attractions for Chinese investors to choose Cambodia over neighbouring countries, he said.

“We have always encouraged Chinese investors to invest in agricultural processing in Cambodia as the country has high demand for this kind of investment,” he added.

In late 2012, China and Cambodia pledged to increase bilateral trade to $5 billion by the end of this year.

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