Government okays return of rice exports

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The government will allow the rice industry to resume exports of white rice to global markets. Heng Chivoan

The government has decided to allow the rice industry to resume exports of white rice to global markets after a ban was issued in March.

The lifting of the ban comes as the Philippines seeks to import an additional 300,000 tonnes of milled rice from major producers in Southeast Asia.

 

The decision is in response to a request by the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) to gradually resume white rice exports from May 20, said a letter sent from the Ministry of Economy and Finance to the CRF on Wednesday and signed by Minister Aun Pornmoniroth.

In March, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered a temporary suspension of white rice and paddy exports to ensure adequate domestic supply, food security and price stability in the Kingdom during the Covid-19 pandemic.

CRF president Song Saran told The Post on Wednesday that lifting the ban would boost Cambodia’s white rice exports to countries facing food shortages.

“I think it is the right decision,” Saran said. “We know that Covid-19 has affected food supply chains and this [Cambodian exports] will contribute to the food needs for other countries. At the same time, it will help us create jobs for millers and farmers.”

Meanwhile, the Philippines, the world’s largest rice importer, wants to order around 300,000 tonnes of milled rice from a number of rice-producing countries in the region, including Cambodia, to increase state rice stockpiles.

Secretary of Agriculture of the Philippines William Dar on Monday said the government had asked major rice producers in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and India to ship milled rice before the third quarter, while local harvesting yields are low, reported Reuters.

 

Dar said the government-to-government agreement of this volume will increase Philippine rice imports to three million tonnes this year.

As the Philippines seeks to import more rice, CRF has called on the country to order rice from Cambodia, said Saran.

“Cambodia is already focused on exporting fragrant rice, premium rice of which nearly 80 per cent is exported to international markets, so we are studying the possibility of any quantity that we can export to the Philippines.

“We hope that we will find a trade partner in the Philippines, and we call on companies in the Philippines to order rice from Cambodia,” he said.

Ministry of Commerce spokesman Seang Thay told The Post that the ministry has not received an official letter from the Philippine government. However, Cambodia will have an opportunity to export rice to the Philippine market.

“This opportunity is possible for Cambodia, because Cambodia and the Philippines have already signed a Memorandum of Agreement [MoA] on rice trade,” said Thay.

He was referring to the MoA signed between former commerce minister Cham Prasidh and then-Philippine Ambassador to Cambodia Noe Wong in April 2013.

Only 200 tonnes of milled rice was exported to the Philippines in the first four months of this year, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries data shows.

CRF data shows that total rice exports to international markets reached more than 300,000 tonnes in the first four months of the year, up 40.46 per cent over the same period last year.