Cambodia is planning to export low-grade rice to Senegal in West Africa amid global concern about food shortages that have pushed prices of the cereal to record levels on world markets.
Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh told reporters in Phnom Penh on April 28 that a Senegalese delegation was due in Cambodia soon to negotiate the purchase of 6,000 tons of broken rice.
“We will be exporting 100 percent broken rice, which we don’t eat in Cambodia,” Prasidh said.
“It is a good thing for one poor country to help another poor country; it can help to raise Cambodia’s international reputation,” he said of the prospective deal.
The government in early April suspended exports of high-grade unbroken rice for two months to ensure that Cambodia maintained ample stocks for domestic consumption.
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Chan Sarun has said there was no concern about a shortage of rice in Cambodia because it produced an annual surplus of more than two million tons.
Speaking on April 24 during a visit to Rolea Piear district in Kampong Chhnang province to inspect the trial of an intensive cultivation system aimed at producing sharply increased yields, Sarun also said Cambodia had the potential to export up to eight million tons by 2015.
He was confident the target could be achieved if more farmers were able to produce two or three harvests of paddy a year.
His comments came after Prime Minister Hun Sen said in Phnom Penh the previous day that Cambodia would become one of the region’s main rice exporters by 2015.
Rice is ‘white gold’
Speaking at the Government-Private Sector Forum at the Council for the Development of Cambodia in Phnom Penh on April 23, Hun Sen said high rice prices were a boon for farmers who had produced a surplus.
“Our farmers have white gold in their hands,” Hun Sen told the forum, noting that rice had become more expensive than gasoline.
“We don’t need gasoline to live but if we do not have rice we will die,” he said, adding that the government had allocated $10 million to help stabilize prices after they rose sharply on the domestic market early in April.
Hun Sen said the money had been allocated to the state-owned Green Trade Co., and the League of Rice Millers Associations, which were using their distribution networks to supply the rice to markets.
The league’s president, Phou Puy, said the stabilization scheme had helped to halve the price of rice to about 2,000 riels a kilogram, depending on quality.
(Additional reporting by Kay Kimsong )