Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Climate change could cause rice prices to nearly double by 2030: study

Climate change could cause rice prices to nearly double by 2030: study

A farmer works in a parched rice paddy in Kampong Speu province’s Kong Pisei district during a drought in 2012.
A farmer works in a parched rice paddy in Kampong Speu province’s Kong Pisei district during a drought in 2012. Heng Chivoan

Climate change could cause rice prices to nearly double by 2030: study

Climate change is threatening the Cambodian rice industry, and it is marginalised communities that will be worst affected unless the government takes action, according to a new study.

The study’s authors, Sokuntheavy Hong and Jun Furuya, took historical climatic, socioeconomic and rice-yield data as their benchmark, and used economic and climate forecasts to estimate future rice crops and prices through 2030.

Looking at both moderate and extreme economic and climate change scenarios, they found that it is not a matter of whether rice prices will go up in coming years, but by how much. In the worst-case scenario, the authors predict that by 2030, rice prices will have increased by as much as 1.52 million riel ($370) per tonne – or 88 per cent above the price of $420 a tonne, reported in December.

When those price rises come, they argue, it will be Cambodia’s poorest citizens who suffer most.

“Poor households spend 60 to 80 per cent of their household incomes on food, so if the price goes up, it can impact their access to health care and their children’s education,” Hong said yesterday.

The solution, she said, is for the government to implement a rice policy that prevents violent fluctuations in rice prices.

“The price will increase; the government should be prepared for that,” Hong said. “They can have procurement like in Thailand, where they buy from farmers at a fixed price and some kind of subsidy for consumers [to protect them from price increases].”

But not everyone agrees with such an approach.

“That’s not how markets work, you end up with dependency,” said World Food Programme country director Gianpietro Bordignon. “Cambodia produces much more rice than is consumed locally. The official stats over the last five or six years talk of 9 million tonnes, and consumption is half of that.”

“Now we have a free market, the government does not buy rice,” said General Department of Agriculture director-general Mak Soeun. “What we can do with the smallholders is to support them as cooperatives and help them to grow good product to meet the market’s demand.”

But one proposal offered by Hong that everyone agreed with was to implement better irrigation systems to counteract the reduced rainfalls associated with climate change.

“The main factor is water,” Hong said. “If you irrigate, then the increase to the price of rice under climate change will be less.”

Soeun said the Agriculture Ministry’s engineering department is constantly exploring better irrigation systems but that implementation is the responsibility of the Ministry of Water Resources, whose representatives could not be reached.

Socheath Sou, director of NGO Live and Learn Environmental Education, said that the effects of climate change on Cambodian agriculture have been seen for some time now and more needs to be done to counteract it.

“We have to have good planning; we have to have financial capacity to deal with the impact. We have to have a group of people with good knowledge of climate change adaptation and we need to have good technology,” Sou said. “Without technology, we can’t do anything.”

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Angkor photo rules clarified

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) denied that it had banned the use of camera tripods in the Angkor Archaeological Park, explaining that the confusion stemmed from a long-standing rule which required commercial photographers and videographers to apply for permission to film. The explanation followed a

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Nestle’s debut may spur dairy market

    Leading confectionery manufacturer Nestle plans to invest in Cambodia by setting up an operation in the near future, a move majorly hailed by local dairy farmers as a means of boosting the fresh milk market in the Kingdom. During a visit by a delegation led