A senior government official on Tuesday called on local authorities in Prey Veng province to restrict the export of unmilled rice to neighboring Vietnam because he is concerned about food shortages in Cambodia.
The appeal was made by Serey Kosal, first deputy general of the National Disaster Management Committee, after it came to light that local farmers are selling tons of surplus rice from last year’s harvest to the Vietnamese market.
Serey Kosal said that people in Prey Veng needed the rice.
“So how are authorities allowing rice to be exported? It’s shameful,” he said.
But Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun said there was nothing wrong with farmers in the area selling their surplus rice.
“There is no affect to [the domestic need for food] because the farmers have a rice surplus,” he said.
Srey Chhunly, Kompong Trabek district deputy governor, said trucks loaded with tons of unmilled rice are being transported by local businessmen from various districts in Prey Veng and Kompong Cham provinces and loaded onto Vietnamese boats regularly docked in a waterway near Kompong Trabek town.
He added that farmers simply prefer selling their surplus rice to the Vietnamese market instead of the local market because it commands a better price—as much as 700 riel per kilogram. On the local market they make 500 riel to 600 riel per kilogram.
“There is no regulation from the government this year ordering a restriction on the export of rice,” Srey Chhunly said. “They are selling rice stocked from last year.”
Prey Veng Governor Ung Samy said that there is nothing to prevent farmers from selling surplus rice while they await this year’s harvest.
“The farmers just sell it for some money because the local market gives them a lower price,” Ung Samy said.
But Serey Kosal said that at the very least local authorities should not allow the Vietnamese boats directly into the district.
He proposed mandating that all transactions should take place at the border under strict supervision from tax officials in order to make sure that the correct tax is paid to the Cambodian government.