The Agriculture Ministry announced yesterday that it will spend more than $40 million on rice processing, trade facilitation and market research by 2015 in order to meet the 1-million-ton export goal set by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The draft financial plan for the new rice policy released yesterday during a consultation seminar called for $44,490,750 in spending between now and 2015 to grow the farming and processing sectors and streamline the exportation process.
Agriculture Ministry officials said yesterday that they had yet to determine whether the government itself would run rice-milling facilities.
“We are discussing [government rice milling] in meetings,” said Secretary of State Chan Tong Yves.
Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun said yesterday that his ministry’s current priority was to move the rice-farming sector away from its subsistence roots.
“Farmers have to change from producing rice as a local food to producing rice as a commercial product,” Mr Sarun said. “The agriculture community will fuel the growth of production in the future.”
According to Mr Sarun, the global demand for rice will rise to 496 million tons in 2020 and 553 million tons in 2035, a roughly 20 percent expansion of the current 439 million ton market. Mr Sarun added that, if successfully implemented, the Agriculture Ministry’s plan would not only help Cambodia hit the 1-million-ton mark, but potentially increase the country’s production capacity to 4-million tons.
Last week, the Agriculture Ministry named the 10 varieties of rice they will ask farmers to plant as part of the rice policy. The chosen varieties, many of which are already in common use, produce export quality milled rice.
Mong Reththy, chairman of the Mong Reththy group, said yesterday that his company and the private sector were supportive of the Agriculture Ministry’s push for farmers to use more commercially viable seeds.
“The private sector is cooperating with the ministry to push for greater production in order to meet demand from customers,” Mr Reththy said, adding that his company was building a $100,000 rice milling facility in Preah Sihanouk province.
“If we rely on other companies’ rice mills, we are afraid there will not be room for us,” Mr Reththy said. “I hope to target France as my first main market.
Thon Virak, general director of the state-owned rice export company Green Trade, said yesterday that it was difficult to guess whether or not the rice plan was backed by adequate funding to reach its goals because no one know the current export levels.
“The first step has to be measuring the movement [of rice exports],” Mr Virak said. “Then we can see how much we can add and how much we are capable of producing.”