Cambodia. Government Investigates Rice Sector


Following a Monday announcement from the Agriculture Ministry that provincial officials must ensure that the country’s rice millers pay adequate prices for rice paddy, the ministry followed up yesterday, saying that working groups had started discussing the situation with rice millers and rice farmers.

In a post on his Facebook page, Minister Veng Sakhon said that the working groups, consisting of 19 officials from relevant departments at the ministry, were liaising with stakeholders to better understand how to improve conditions for farmers.

“The working groups’ duty is to monitor, quality control and safety check agricultural products to help farmers analyze how to reduce production costs and increase revenue, and to intervene in current issues involving the prices for agriculture products,” he wrote.

This followed a statement from Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak on Friday, when his ministry issued a regulation directing all rice importers to follow the law concerning country-of-origin requirements.

“All rice importing companies must respect the laws and regulations, such as having proper packaging, company address, weight, origin of products, buying and sales contract, and a valid date on the attached import certificate,” the statement read.

The ministry’s’ reactions come amid growing concern from domestic rice farmers that the stresses of the recent drought have been compounded by a drop in the price that rice millers are paying.

The current price for a ton of unmilled fragrant rice is $200, down $100 from last year.

Nop Saloeun, a rice farmer in Banteay Meanchey province, told Khmer Times yesterday that despite government statements and proclamations, she has seen no intervention locally on rice prices.

She is now receiving about 600 riel ($0.15) for a kilogram of rice paddy, whereas last year she was able to sell it for about 880 riel. She blamed the network of brokers and millers for the drop and their lack of a clear pricing formula.

“As we owe money to MFIs [microfinance institutions] and fertilizer sellers, and there is no place to dry the newly harvested rice due to the rain, we decided we had to sell our newly harvested rice for the lower price,” Ms. Saloeun said.

“We know that we will lose money, but there is no choice.”

Song Saran, the president of Amru Rice (Cambodia), a rice exporting company, told Khmer Times that there were many factors affecting the price of rice.

He noted Vietnam’s recent move to grow fragrant rice – formally a Cambodian export to the country – the low amounts millers were prepared to pay, the lack of silos for storing rice during the rainy season and the over-supply of fragrant rice coupled with an import of Vietnamese rice, meant that farmers and millers were now facing a “crisis.”

He added that the government seemed to lack a clear policy for the rice sector, or a long-term vision.

“The 100,000 to 200,000 tons of rice needs at least three to four months of proper storage before it can be sold at a higher price, but farmers cannot wait for this since they have to pay back MFIs, and therefore the quality is low and there is a period of oversupply.”

Taing Sokkhy, a rice expert at Eng Dypo Development Company, said that one way to ensure higher prices was for rice farmers to focus on quality, not quantity. Regions should also start to specialize in a certain rice variety, which will lower transport, storage and milling costs, and increase prices.

“The solution to ensuring the market is sustainable is that farmers in a region should select the same rice variety and then all grow it in that area. Combined with an effort from rice millers to teach correct storage and drying techniques, then standards can be improved and prices rise.”

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