Milled rice exports have seen dramatic growth this year as the sector begins to take advantage of duty-free exports to European countries, an official and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.
Thon Virak, director of state-owned rice exporter Green Trade, said Tuesday that in the year up to the end of April, 118,500 tons of milled rice had been exported from Cambodia.
“It increased by about 43 percent compared with the same period [last year],” Mr. Virak said.
“Milled rice exports increased because of high demand in the market. Most of the milled rice is exported to the European Union [E.U.].”
“Right now, we have a market. They know our milled rice is good quality. We need to produce more rice,” he said.
In its most recent quarterly Rice Market Monitor report for April, the FAO also showed that milled rice exports were up.
“High Thai [rice] prices have not only fostered growing interest in Cambodia’s more affordable aromatic rice, but have also made it stand out as a lucrative market for Thai investors interested in capitalizing on its lower costs and preferential access to European countries under the [E.U.’s] Everything-But-Arms initiative.”
Cambodia traditionally exports a large proportion of its rice crop as unprocessed paddy to Thailand and Vietnam, where it is milled and often re-exported. The government has targeted an increase to 1 million tons a year—compared with only about 200,000 tons last year—by 2015, and investment in rice mills has been stepped up to meet the goal.
The FAO also predicted that the total rice crop in Cambodia would grow this year, following a better-than-expected harvest of 9.3 million tons in 2012.
“Although much will depend on the performance of the rains, production in the forthcoming 2013 season is preliminary forecast at 9.5 million [tons]…up 2 percent from the 2012 record,” the report says.
“If confirmed, it would mark the ninth year of uninterrupted production gains in the country.”
Hean Vanhorn, deputy director-general of the general department of agriculture, said the government was also confident of a good harvest in the next rice season.
“The prediction of the FAO will be correct if there is no serious natural disaster…. For example, if a drought happens in places where there’s no water irrigation,” he said.
Mr. Vanhorn added that the yield kept growing because more land was being planted with rice each year and improved irrigation meant that more people were able to plant and harvest rice twice a year.