An agreement has been signed between Phnom Penh and Beijing that will see 100,000 tons of Cambodian rice exported to China from early next year, officials said.
Hun Lak, vice president of Cambodia Rice Federation, welcomed the deal but said China was only one of several potential growth markets for Cambodia rice.
“The deal is good because China is a [relatively] new market for Cambodia,” Mr. Lak said, adding that the government is aiming to double the amount of rice exported to China from 100,000 tons last year.
He said the obstacle to exporting more rice is its price, not quality. “The price of Cambodian rice is higher… ordinary rice is priced about $400 [per ton], and fragrant rice is about $800 per ton. If compared with neighboring countries, their price is about $300 [per ton] for ordinary rice, but the price of fragrant rice is similar to ours,” Mr. Lak said.
“The federation is creating a working team to pinpoint problems and find solutions to make our rice more competitive,” he added.
China imports about 2 million tons of rice, mainly from Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Pakistan, Mr. Lak said.
“Most [Cambodian] rice exported to China is ordinary rice because we can harvest it twice a year, but fragrant rice is harvested just once a year,” Mr. Lak said.
Hean Vanhon, deputy general director of the general department of agriculture, hailed the deal. “This is a good for Cambodia,” he said, adding that almost 100,000 tons of rice had been exported to China in the first nine months of this year.
The deal is particularly welcome because of increased competition among rice exporters in the European Union, and the slide in its currency against the US dollar.
Cambodia has exported over 360,000 tons of milled rice in the first nine months of this year, up 37 percent over the same period last year, according to official figures. Almost two-thirds, 64 percent, were exported to the EU.
Song Sarang, chairman of Amru Rice (Cambodia), a leading exporter of milled rice, welcomed the deal, saying it would raise the profile of Cambodian rice.
“I am very glad that China continues to buy Cambodian rice. This helps us brand Cambodian rice in the Chinese market,” Mr. Sarang said.
The scale of the deal will have a positive impact throughout the entire value chain and occurs at a time when competition is rising in the EU’s market, he added.
“Personally, I think the Chinese market is focusing more on high-quality Cambodian rice, such as fragrant rice and white rice,” Mr. Saran said. The deal also demonstrates a long-term commitment from China to support Cambodia, he added.
He said prices paid by Chinese buyers were similar to those paid in the EU and expressed confidence that Cambodia “can easily handle the deal.” “Our paddy surplus is much more than the order from China,” he explained.
He also called on customs officials to monitor more closely the flow of rice out of Cambodia, and to do this in consultation with millers and exporters, to ensure that high-quality rice was not being transported across borders to be milled and exported from neighboring countries.
This could lead to a shortage of high-quality rice for export from Cambodia, Mr. Saran said.