The government has ordered a nationwide recall of the fungicide tricyclazole to keep its rice exports eligible for the important E.U. market, but said it might not get the chemical out of its supplies in time to meet the bloc’s July deadline.
The E.U.’s new threshold is 0.01 milligrams of tricyclazole residue per kilogram of rice paddy, down from the current cutoff of 1 milligram.
The Agriculture Ministry issued an announcement on Monday asking farmers to stop using the fungicide and all wholesalers and retailers to hand over their supplies to the government. It also orders provincial agriculture departments to inspect suppliers for compliance.
The statement said that tricyclazole can leave a “residue” on treated crops.
“All these chemicals are being collected and stored and they are no longer allowed to import [them],” Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon said on Tuesday. Otherwise, he added, the E.U. “will stop importing our rice because they say it would affect people’s health.”
The minister was dubious that Cambodia would manage to meet the deadline, however.
“Perhaps we can’t meet the July deadline; it is very little time,” he said. “I think they should give us one year.”
Mr. Sakhon said he planned to ask the E.U. for an extension, but added that he was not hopeful.
He said Cambodia could turn to other fungicides in the long run, but would have to pay twice as much as it does for tricyclazole, most of which it currently imports from Thailand and Vietnam.
The E.U. remains a major market for Cambodian rice, importing 63 percent of the 542,000 tons the country sent abroad last year. China was the largest single buyer, importing 127,000 tons.
Phou Puy, a member of the Cambodia Rice Federation, was more optimistic. Mr. Puy said most of Cambodia’s rice farmers were still chemical-free and so would not be hit by the new limits on tricyclazole.
“I am not worried about this because our country does not use a lot of chemicals. Most of our rice farmers remain organic,” he said.