Cambodian rice exports in 2017 increased 17 percent by volume compared to the year before, with exporters pushing to fill orders under China’s expanded import quota while shipments to European markets remained steady, according to Agriculture Ministry figures.
A total of 635,600 tonnes of rice was exported to international markets in 2017, up from 542,144 tonnes the previous year, according to a Facebook post by Hean Vanhan, director general of the general directorate of agriculture at the ministry.
China, which agreed to accept 200,000 tonnes of rice from Cambodia in 2017 – doubling the previous limit – and will expand the quota to 300,000 tonnes this year, was the top destination for rice shipments.
Over five years, total rice exports have grown 67.78 percent from 378,800 tonnes in 2013, the figures show.
Chray Son, deputy director of Capital Food Cambodia, a Battambang province rice exporter, said the increase in exports to China was welcome, but Europe remained the market with high potential for future growth.
“Cambodian rice is becoming more popular and the quality is being recognised in the international market,” he said.
But rice exports were still small compared to neighbouring countries, and the industry would need to focus on quality seeds and building more storage, drying and irrigation facilities in order to reach its goal of exporting 1 million tonnes a year, Son added.
Som Song, director of Agricultural Development Chamroeurn Phal, an agricultural cooperative in Raing Kesei commune in Battambang province’s Raing Kesei district, said that even though 2017 was a profitable year, farmers in his area were still hampered by a lack of storage and drying facilities.
“We do not have a place to dry our paddy rice, so we have to sell at a low price,” Song said.
The state-run Rural Development Bank (RDB) provided about $15 million in low-interest loans last year to two companies to build and operate rice storage warehouses and rice-drying facilities. Amru Rice is building one facility in Kampong Thom, while Khmer Food Group is constructing two in Prey Veng and Takeo provinces.
The facilities, which are each set to have the capacity to store 50,000 tonnes of paddy rice and dry approximately 1,500 tonnes of rice daily, are scheduled to be completed this month.
Meanwhile, another RDB project, based on a $15 million loan to Thaneakea Srov (Kampuchea) Plc in 2016, is also set to start operating in Battambang province this year with a massive 200,000-tonne capacity silo and warehouse facility and the ability to dry 3,000 tonnes of paddy rice a day.