Cambodian rice exports to international markets grew sharply by more than 21 per cent in the first two months of this year despite fears of the Covid-19 pandemic causing global concern.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhorn released the data last week, noting in the first two months of 2020, Cambodian rice exports to international markets reached 136,499 tonnes, an increase of 21.34 per cent compared to the same period last year.

China is the leading market for rice from Cambodia, with a market share of 37.43 per cent, followed by the European market at 30.31 per cent, Asean region at 18.48 per cent and other destinations at 13.78 per cent.

According to the data, exports to the Chinese market in the first two months of 2020 were 51,092 tonnes, an increase of 17.58 per cent compared to the 2019’s 43,452 tonnes.

Exports to the European market reached 41,373 tonnes, a 21.79 per cent increase from 33,969 tonnes.

The Asean region stood at 25,231 tonnes, up 39.77 per cent from 18,051 tonnes, and other regions hit 18,803 tonnes, up 28.7 per cent from 14,609 tonnes.

Cambodia Rice Federation secretary-general Lun Yeng told The Post on Monday that rice exports are improving to all export destinations.

He noted tariffs on exports to European markets decreased from 175 euros per tonne in 2019 to 150 euros per tonne in 2020, which likely led to the increase.

“What we saw for Cambodian rice in the European market is a better picture because Cambodian rice is branded as a non-toxic product because we market our rice as sustainable rice,” he said.

“We believe that the Cambodian rice market is becoming more popular in China because at present Cambodian rice is in high demand in China, but what is worrying is transport issues which may impede delivery of goods because transport via waterway has been reduced significantly.”

Chan Sokheang, CEO of Signature of Asia Co., a local rice exporter to several countries around the world, said Cambodia’s rice exports in early 2020 were positive and will continue to grow.

He added that the increase in exports could be due to a number of important reasons, such as the quality of Cambodian rice being recognised, the improvement of international trade relations and quota jumps from China.

“I think Cambodian rice exports to the international market will see more growth this year, and that’s a really good trend,” he said.

He said the outbreak of Covid-19 in many countries around the world will not impact rice exports from the Kingdom.

However, he said Cambodia must also work to improve the quality of rice, lower its production costs, seek more capital and compete with neighbouring rice producers.

According to a CRF report, in 2019, Cambodia exported 620,106 tonnes of rice to international markets, down 0.97 per cent from 626,225 tonnes in 2018.