Cambodia exported 637,004 tonnes of milled rice in 2022 – up 3.23 per cent year-on-year – of which 45.34 per cent went to mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau, according to a new report from the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body.

Broken down by variety, premium aromatic rice represented the lion’s share at 277,739 tonnes, followed by Sen Kra’op fragrant (179,070 tonnes), white (153,428 tonnes), parboiled (15,781 tonnes), organic (10,963 tonnes) and glutinous (23 tonnes).

A total of 61 exporters shipped the milled rice to 59 jurisdictions, with the mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau markets collectively accounting for the most at 288,830 tonnes, followed by 25 destinations in the EU (221,504 tonnes), four in ASEAN (64,733 tonnes) and 27 elsewhere (61,937 tonnes).

The report put the total value of Cambodia’s 2022 milled-rice exports at $414.29 million, adding that 3,477,886 tonnes of paddy rice worth $841.09 million were exported last year, exclusively to Vietnam.

Although the CRF offered no additional figures on year-on-year changes, the Kingdom’s 2022 milled-rice exports to China may have been a 6.74 per cent on-year drop, using the 2021 figure of 309,709 tonnes cited by former Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon as reference.

In an interview with The Post on January 5, City Rice Import Export Co Ltd group president and CEO Andy Lay Chhun Hour attributed the drop in exports of the commodity to China to economic uncertainty as well as surplus stockpiles of the grain, following excess purchases fuelled by Covid-19 concerns.

Chhun Hour also blamed US rate hikes, which he said undermined the stability of the yuan relative to other currencies, thereby resulting in higher prices of imported milled rice sold on the Chinese market.

Production of fragrant rice varieties popular in China also saw a “sharp decline” in the July-September quarter, further eroding exports, he said.

He shared that City Rice Import Export, a major rice milling enterprise based in Battambang province, exported about 102,000 tonnes of milled rice last year – representing a roughly 16 per cent market share – mostly to China and Europe.

Chhun Hour is seen as the main person behind Phka Rumduol rice’s participation at the TRT (The Rice Trader) World Rice Conference in Phuket, Thailand on November 17 that awarded it the World’s Best Rice award for the fifth year.

Phka Rumduol is a type of long-grain jasmine rice that has emerged as a top choice of international buyers, and is one of the varieties exported under the “Angkor Malys” certification mark.

Speaking at a January 5 press conference, agriculture minister Dith Tina reiterated a call for improvements in the quality of export-bound produce to command higher prices on international markets and increase profit margins, suggesting marketing initiatives tailored for foreign audiences.

In November, the government allocated an additional $10 million towards a special loan package – bringing its total size to $93 million – for rice mills to buy more paddy at reasonable prices, particularly from farmers in northwestern provinces – where price drops during the harvest season then had been especially severe – while preventing unscrupulous traders from low-balling prices.

The agriculture ministry reported that, last year, Cambodia respectively exported 617,069 tonnes and 3.527 million tonnes of milled and paddy rice, bringing in $527.594 million and $631.408 million.