Fragrant Rice Reaped as Harvest Season Begins

At the start of this harvest season, rice farmers have begun by reaping varieties with of the grain with the shortest growing cycle and trading in fragrant rice–the dominant commercial short-term variety–has begun, officials and agriculture experts said yesterday.

Industry analysts say this year’s favorable weather conditions could produce a bountiful harvest.

Chan Heng, administrative director at the Agriculture Ministry, said that on Nov 17 farmers had harvested 271,146 hectares of paddy, about 11 percent of the total 2,390,472 hectares planted nationwide this year.

Hean Vanhorn, deputy director general of the Ministry of Agriculture’s general department of agriculture, said farmers had mostly started harvesting the short-term rice varieties, which have a growing cycle of around three months.

Phou Phuy, President of the Cambodian Rice Millers Association in Battambang province, said prices for fragrant rice currently stood at about 1,200 to 1,300 riel, or just over $0.30, per kilogram of unmilled rice, while lower quality rice varieties sold at 700 riel to 800 riel per gram, or about $0.20.

“Rice prices are similar to [November] last year,” Mr Phuy said. “I expect rice prices will remain stable or increase. Prices will not go down because there is still high demand from foreign countries.”

Yang Saing Koma, director of the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture, estimated that about a quarter of all farmers relied on short- and medium-term rice varieties.

Mr Saing Koma agreed with Mr Phuy’s price estimates but, of prices offered by cross-border rice traders, he said: “In the northwest at the border with Thailand, the prices are higher than in the southeast near Vietnam.”

Sim Sroy, a farmer at Prey Veng province’s Ba Phnom district, said he had so far harvested one of his four hectares of paddy. Mr Sroy said although rice prices in his district were now slightly higher than last year he would stock his rice until prices went up, something the majority of farmers in the area could not afford.

“Most farmers already sold their rice because they need money to pay back loans for chemical fertilizer and other things,” he said.

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