An official at the Alliance of Rice Producers and Exporters of Cambodia (ARPC) on Sunday denied claims reportedly made by the European Union’s (E.U.) Trade Commissioner earlier this month that 30 percent of rice exported from Cambodia is illicitly mixed with Vietnamese rice.
Oryza, a global rice industry publication, released a report Thursday saying that ARPC had agreed to draw up a code of conduct after E.U. Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht warned that Cambodian rice risked losing its tariff-free export status to the E.U.
Rice exported from Cambodia to the E.U. is not subject to duties under the E.U.’s Everything But Arms (EBA) initiative, a benefit that is not currently afforded to cheaper Vietnamese rice.
Van Vichet, the deputy secretary of ARPC, said that while the association had agreed to create a code of conduct, it denied Cambodian rice was being contaminated before being exported to Europe.
He said that the accusation was the political result of recession-stricken rice farmers from European countries lobbying E.U. officials to reintroduce tariffs for rice imported into Europe.
“Some E.U. countries are now not happy with us, and so they are trying to lobby the E.U. to remove the EBA [status] from us,” he said, citing farmers in Italy, Greece and Spain as the main sources of the push.
Mr. Vichet said that the E.U. Trade Commissioner’s warning had been delivered to officials at the Ministry of Commerce at a trade meeting in Bali earlier this month.
“The E.U. has approached us to remind us to take measures to handle this problem to avoid making any mistakes,” he said.
“We will take action and be self-disciplined.”
Commerce Ministry spokesperson Kong Putheara agreed with Mr. Vichet’s rejection and said that any tests of Cambodian rice exports to the E.U. would confirm that the rice is all grown locally.
“What factors have the E.U. based this claim on that 30 percent of rice exports from Cambodia contain rice from Vietnam? Have they looked at the DNA or have they looked at other factors?” he asked.
Mr. Putheara acknowledged, however, that exported Cambodian rice is often sent to Vietnam, where it is milled, before being exported.
“Some of our rice millers take rice and hire Vietnamese millers to mill it and then bring it back to Cambodia for export,” he said, although he denied that the rice could be cut with Vietnamese rice during transit.
“If we couldn’t mill our rice to a high standard, it would be difficult to enter the E.U. market.”