Milled-rice exports to Europe amounted to 68,555 tonnes in January to April this year, compared to the 42,850 tonnes sold to just the EU in the same period of 2021, following the end of the bloc’s three-year safeguard measures to protect European rice farmers and the local market, according to the head of the Kingdom’s apex industry body.
The total value of the Cambodian rice exports during the period amounted to $51.02 million despite a nearly 10-fold increase in ocean freight costs, said Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) president Song Saran, who described the export growth as “remarkable”.
The cost per 20-foot container is $7,000 to $8,000 currently compared to $800 to $1,000 pre-Covid-19, but there is no shortage of containers.
He said it did not matter that the cost of ocean freight was higher, as the momentum of milled rice exports to Europe has increased, offsetting shipping costs.
“Milled rice exports in 2021 declined sharply because the transportation system to Europe was almost cut off due to the pandemic.
“As the situation tapered, Cambodia rushed to export to meet the demand in Europe and take advantage of the tax rollback [beginning January this year],” Saran told The Post on May 9.
The safeguard measures, imposed in 2019, required Cambodian exporters to pay an import duty of €175 ($184) per tonne in the first year, €150 per tonne in 2020, and €125 per tonne in 2021.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, introduced tariffs on Indica rice exports from Cambodia and Myanmar after an investigation found that the imports were allegedly causing economic damage to EU producers.
CRF’s Saran said the lifting of the requirement this year led to the reinstatement of benefits on the Cambodian rice sector and to regain its competitive edge against other rice exporting countries.
Every year, Cambodia, which enjoys preferential treatment under the EU’s Everything But Arms scheme, exports 100,000 to 200,000 tonnes of rice to Europe, he said. “The European market demands 180,000 to 200,000 tonnes of rice per year. We don’t have a problem exporting because we have the capacity to produce and supply.”
Meanwhile, Ministry of Commerce spokesman Penn Sovicheat noted the “good signs” following the rise in exports to Europe, a market he admitted was not among those such as China that were expected to record such solid gains.
“It is due to the buying momentum of European customers, a predominant part of whom have turned to consuming Cambodian milled rice,” he told The Post.