Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Battambang farmers protest plummeting rice prices

Battambang farmers protest plummeting rice prices

Farmers block National Road 5 yesterday in Battambang during a protest in which they demanded a solution to falling rice prices. Ny Savuth
Farmers block National Road 5 yesterday in Battambang during a protest in which they demanded a solution to falling rice prices. Ny Savuth

Battambang farmers protest plummeting rice prices

Attempting to call attention to the havoc low rice prices are wreaking on their livelihoods, hundreds of farmers in Battambang’s Sangke district took to the streets yesterday, symbolically pouring rice onto National Road 5.

“We harvested the rice already but there is no market for it,” explained Sok Chanthy, 46, one of the farmers who joined the protest. “Therefore, all we can do is put the rice on the road so the government will intervene and help us find buyers.”

Despite heavy rains and considerable yields, business this year has been bad for Cambodia’s rice farmers, with traders offering low prices or opting not to buy rice at all, Chanthy explained. As a result, farmers have been unable to pay back the loans they took out for fertilisers, pesticides and agricultural machinery.

“The price of rice was appropriate last year, about 11,000 baht [about $315] per tonne. But this year the traders offered only 6,000 baht [$172] per tonne. How can we sell our rice if it does not even cover our capital?” asked Soeung Soda, 51, another farmer who joined the protest.

Some have blamed the dip in prices on an upsurge in the amount of rice imported from Vietnam. “Vietnam produces far cheaper rice than we do, so it is very appealing to the traders to buy Vietnamese rice and distribute domestically,” said Khem Bunlen, executive director of the Cambodian Farmer Rice company.

But industry experts have noted that rice exports have shrunk across the region over the past two years, impacting rice exports from Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam. On Friday, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced he would spend about $27 million to help prop up the struggling sector.

When news of yesterday’s protests reached the authorities, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan took to Facebook to urge farmers to remain calm until the effects of the government intervention could be felt. He also threatened a harsh response to demonstrators.

“Bad individuals or groups using the price of rice as a means to organise people to create turmoil must face responsibility in front of the law,” Siphan said.

According to Chanthy, the protests began about 8am when three large bags of rice were dumped on the road. But the farmers quickly picked the rice up so as not to cause traffic congestion. Still, he said the protests would continue if government support was short-lived.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia unveils new quarantine regulations

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Cambodia sets new Covid-19 quarantine rules

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Hun Sen: Cambodia set to fully reopen

    Prime Minister Hun Sen concludes that the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, during which many people either flocked to their hometowns for family reunion or gathered at tourist attractions across the country, has not caused an outbreak of Covid-19. In a special address to

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Cambodia resumes issuance of tourist visas

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has announced the resumption of its tourist visa and visa exemption programme after a long hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In a letter dated October 20 and addressed to foreign embassies and consulates, foreign minister Prak Sokhonn

  • Cambodia voted ‘world’s friendliest country’ in Rough Guides reader poll

    Cambodia ranked number one among the “World’s Friendliest Countries”, according to a reader poll conducted by London-based international website “Rough Guides”. Taking submissions through Twitter and Facebook, “Rough Guides”, a well-known travel agency and publisher of guidebooks, said the Kingdom “was by far the