Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday ordered the suspension of white rice and paddy exports from Cambodia from 11:59pm on April 5, on the grounds of securing domestic supplies while Covid-19 is continuing to spread in Cambodia.
Speaking at a press conference following the extraordinary parliamentary session on a vote of confidence in the Cabinet appointments and reshuffles, he said the introduction of a preventive strategy is important during an emergency, while Covid-19 is spreading in many countries, including Cambodia.
He said the decision to suspend paddy and white rice exports would ensure better paddy stockpiles.
“I am ordering the suspension of white rice and paddy exports but allowing the export of fragrant rice, with effect from April 5 onwards,” he said.
He stressed that the export suspension would apply only to white rice and paddy, which is in high demand in the domestic market. Fragrance rice, which has less local demand will be exported as normal.
“We have to keep food in our country, and this food . . . I am not referring to cassava, potatoes, corn or soybeans, but to rice only, and by ‘rice’ we’re refering to milked white rice and paddy.
“But our fragrant rice is contracted for export in smaller quantities to the EU and some other countries. This export can continue,” he said.
On the deadline to close exports, Hun Sen said it would allow traders and others who have already bought paddy and are ready to export to Thailand and Vietnam to do so.
Besides this, he also told the Ministry of Economy and Finance to look into the possibility of disbursing funds to millers to buy paddy from those who had previously sold it to traders in neighbouring countries.
He said: “Let the rice millers buy paddy from those who are harvesting and need to sell it, and buy all the paddy to maintain good prices, and avoid lower prices while there are no traders from Thailand and Vietnam.”
Cambodian Rice Federation (CRF) vice-president Chan Sokheang told The Post on Monday that the government’s measures to suspend exports of white rice and paddy would help Cambodia maintain a strong stockpile.
This, he said, is especially so under the circumstances when many countries around the world were facing problems stemming from the spread of Covid-19.
“The CRF would like to support the government’s measures to strengthen domestic paddy stockpiles and prevent any shortfall,” he said.
However, the suspension of white rice exports has also affected orders from some countries, he said. “This is a situation we call ‘force majeure’ so some sort of order agreement will be waived.”
Sokheang said on average the white rice exports to the international market accounts for about 20 per cent, while that for fragrant rice is 80 per cent.
Last year, Cambodian rice exports to the international market were worth about $501 million – down 4.3 per cent from $524 million in 2018, a CRF report said.
Representing CRF, Sokheang also called on the ministry to increase additional funding so that rice buyers and rice millers can buy more paddy to stock up.
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries data, obtained by The Post on Monday, shows that Cambodia exported 214,612 tonnes of rice to international markets this year as of March 25.
China accounted for 94,060 tonnes, EU (62,998 tonnes), Asean countries (27,937 tonnes), and other destinations (29,617 tonnes). Paddy exports to Vietnam accounted for 836,692 tonnes.
Last year, rice exported to international markets reached 620,106 tonnes, down 0.97 per cent from 2018’s 626,225 tonnes.
Data showed that exports to China accounted for 40.73 per cent or 248,105 tonnes, the European market (32.01 per cent), or 202,990 tonnes. Exports to Asean accounted for 13.41 per cent equal or 83,164 tonnes, and other destinations (13.84 per cent) or 85,847 tonnes.
Paddy exports to Vietnam were 2.15 million tonnes during the same period, the data showed.