High-Tech Rice Mill’s Exports Promising

A Cambodian mill for high-quality rice has met its yearly expectations, exporting about 20,000 tons to markets as far away as Hong Kong and the US.

Angkor Kasekam Roong­roeung Co, Ltd, processes rice at its Kandal province mill using infrared sensors and other equipment to separate rice kernels that meet international standards from those that do not.

The company was able to find buyers for its best rice in the US, Europe, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, said a spokesman for the company who would identify himself only as “Mr Chieu.”

Chieu Hieng, vice chairman and chief executive officer for the company, was not available for comment.

The company located its mill where it would be easily accessible to farmers who grow Neang Malis rice, a fragrant, robust strain that doesn’t break easily and is popular in foreign markets, the spokesman said.

The large amount of high-grade rice exported after being milled in Cambodia is a new phenomenon. Farm­ers typically sell their paddy rice to Thai or Viet­nam­ese traders, who mill the paddy rice in their home countries and then export it, sometimes back to Cam­bodia. Mean­while, lower-grade rice is milled and sold in Cambodia.

The company organized farmers from Kompong Speu, Takeo, Kandal and Kampot provinces, and provided them with 50 kg of rice seeds per hectare of land. That yielded three tons of paddy rice, the spokesman said.

Farmers were paid between 500 and 700 riel (about $0.12 to $0.17) per kg of paddy rice, the spokesman said. He would not disclose the amount that foreign buyers paid for milled rice, saying the company feared that regional competitors would try to undercut prices next season.

May Sam Eoun, secretary of state for the Ministry of Agri­cul­ture, said more private enterpri­ses could benefit from following the methods used by Angkor Ka­se­kam.

He said farmer associations were an important part of the equation, be­cause associations have a better chance of guaranteeing the large tonnage of produce required by in­vestors.

“I think the international market always needs to buy a large amount, every year,” he said. “[In­di­vidual] farmers sometimes have it, and sometimes not.”

Cambodia has grown a surplus of rice the last two years, but  poor infrastructure and low-quality rice have hampered efforts to export it. There have even been problems moving rice from pro­vin­ces with a surplus to those with a shortage.

The price for local milled rice today is about 700 riel to 1,000 riel (about $0.17 to $0.25) per kg, May Sam Eoun said.

Cambodian rice fields still generally yield less than those in neighboring countries. An average hectare yields about 3.7 tons of unmilled rice.

Angkor Kasekam says it discourages the use of fertilizers to boost yield. The company says it promotes techniques for increasing production without fertilizer, such as identifying weak saplings and weeding them out.

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