Crisis Fears Hit Rice Industry

Cambodia’s rice industry is facing a dire crisis, prominent industry members warn.

Rice that has been milled in Cambodia is not appealing to foreign buyers, because it mixes different strains of the grain.

Phou Puy, president of the Cam­bodia Rice Federation, said his group would begin selling Paka Mlis seed, a high-quality rice grown in some parts of Cam­bodia that could be considered ex­port­able, to Battam­bang farmers in August of each year, and then buy the rice the following April after it has been harvested to mill and export it. He said mixing seeds must stop since “there is no [foreign] market for our current rice.”

He said that by 2005 Cambodia should standardize its milled rice to make it more exportable.

Kim Savuth, president of Prey Veng Rice Mill Association, said his group is seeking a $6 million loan, collateral free, to buy rice from farmers during the harvest season to prevent them from selling it to Vietnam.

“We are not capable of accepting a loan with collateral as a normal commercial bank would,” he said. “We need a transparent loan with a proper payment schedule.”

In addition, bribing officials makes exporting rice expensive. Ship­ping a ton of rice from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville costs $21, while shipping the same amount from Ho Chi Minh City to Manila costs $18, he said.

Without government oversight, Kim Savuth said, the rice export industry would be finished by 2010.

Chieu Hieng, executive director of Angkor Kasekam Roong Roeung, one of the country’s larg­est rice processing factories, called on the Ministry of Com­merce to help stop individual farmers from selling their harvested rice to buyers in Vietnam.

But desperate farmers are selling harvested rice to foreign markets in April of each year for $40 per ton, even though it is usually worth $100 per ton in November.

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