Cambodia is considering investing in rice production in Cuba to help strengthen the Caribbean island nation’s capacity to ensure food security, as well as to increase the presence of the Kingdom’s varieties of the stable crop in international markets.

Minister of Agriculture, Forests, and Fisheries Dith Tina revealed the plan during the closing ceremony of a ministry meeting on March 24.

The ministry is conducting feasibility studies for investments in rice cultivation abroad for sale locally, he said, suggesting that other avenues to pave the way for new investment and export opportunities vis-a-vis the selected markets are also being explored.

“The first target will be Cuba, where we’ll ship out short-term rice varieties, to improve the nation’s food security. Ivory Coast is also interested in Cambodian rice types,” he said, without naming specific varieties.

Local Cuban media reports from early 2022 noted that 180,000 tonnes of rice were planned to be produced nationwide that year, a far cry from the 304,000 tonnes yielded in 2018 as well as the estimated 700,000 tonnes needed annually for domestic consumption.

Amru Rice (Cambodia) Co Ltd CEO Song Saran commented to The Post on March 27 that Cuba is a substantial importer of milled rice, and that the minister’s proposal offers exciting new opportunities for the industry, which he said should pique the interest of the Kingdom’s millers and exporters.

“While I am unsure of the current state of the Cuban rice industry, I do know that it imports a significant amount of milled rice from other nations,” he said, presenting the plan as a chance for local investors to establish packaging and distribution infrastructure there.

Andy Lay Chhun Hour, group president and CEO of City Rice Import Export Co Ltd, a major rice miller based in Battambang province, disclosed to The Post on March 27 that he had recently discussed the Cuba plan with Tina, but had yet to hear anything further.

The minister issued a call to encourage local players to travel to Cuba, grow crops and establish a market there, Chhun Hour said, conceding that he has no experience in the country, “so I can’t speak to the weather and soil conditions”.

Nevertheless, a study trip to the former Spanish colony could be “a big break for agricultural investors because the Cuban government already has a market; we’d only need to go and invest in cultivation, milling and distribution.

“I haven’t really looked at Cuba’s investment potential, but I understand that the Cuban market imports loads of milled rice.

“It’d be worthwhile for investors to travel there and learn more, as Havana might just offer incentives for investments,” he said.

Early in December, the minister met with Cuban ambassador Liurka Rodriguez Barrios. During the meeting, the Cuban side invited Tina to send agricultural experts to share their knowledge and expertise with Cuba, particularly with regard to rice cultivation.

In response, Tina vowed to organise such a delegation to visit Cuba, share their experiences and gain a better grasp of agricultural development in the country, especially in the rice domain.

Four memorandums of understanding (MoU) were signed by Cambodia and Cuba early in October to deepen and expand bilateral relations.