Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh (L) and UAE Minister of Foreign Trade Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi exchange a gift Monday, Oct.1, 2012, in Phnom Penh. Photograph supplied
As part of its plan to become of the world’s top exporters of rice, Cambodia is looking to increase its rice shipments to the United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s main milled rice importers.
Cham Prasidh, Minister of Commerce, met with delegates and businessmen led by Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi, Minister of Foreign Trade of the UAE, yesterday morning.
Cham Prasidh said the UAE sees great potential in Cambodia to be a partner on the milled rice market.
“The UAE is smaller than us but their country is a main rice importer,” Cham Prasidh said. “They are a crucial market for our milled rice industry as they import a lot every year for re-exporting to their neighbours.
"Our neighbours, Thailand and Vietnam, already sell them their milled rice, so why can’t we? I think, from now on, we can do more business.”
Sheikha Lubna said the objective of her first visit is to bring some prominent business delegates to Cambodia and to learn about the potential business and investment opportunities in the Kingdom.
“The forum is very important to both countries as it sets the platform for us to explore how Cambodia can partner with the United Arab Emirates,” Sheikha Lubna said. “In particular, it will determine how we can achieve mutual benefit and promote bilateral growth. The UAE is the centre of logistics between East and West."
Kim Savuth, Chairman of the Federation of Cambodian Rice Exporters, welcomed the group visit, saying it will be paving the way for the private sector from both sides to exchange views and contacts.
“I think that it is the right time for the Arabs to come and cooperate with Cambodia where there’s a lot of potential in the rice industry while the Arabs are making a lot of money,” Kim Savuth said. “What we want to know from them is what kind of policy and paperwork they need as well as the quality of milled rice they want.
"[Yesterday’s] meeting allowed us, the rice millers, to come to meet them face to face so we build our networks with them."
Kim Savuth said he already conducted a study about the Arab market last year.
“I found out that they are not strict on the quality of milled rice,” he said.
Cham Prasidh said Cambodia needs between US$700 million to $1 billion to prepare paddy rice needed to boost exports.
Bilateral trade between the two countries nearly doubled last year from $16 million in 2010 to $30 million in 2011. He said Cambodia’s current milled rice markets are the European Union and the United States of America.
Cambodia’s total exports of milled rice dropped about 35 per cent in the first half of 2012 to 78,000 tonnes compared to 120,000 tonnes in the same period in 2011, according to data released by the Ministry of Agriculture yesterday.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Kunmakara at [email protected]