China has vowed to import more milled rice from Cambodia when it “fully reopens” its border, as commercial shipments of the processed grains were near the 170,000 tonne mark in the first half of 2022, representing an increase of almost one-fifth over the corresponding period last year.
The pledge was revealed in a statement issued by the Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh, in conjunction with a meeting between foreign minister Prak Sokhonn and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of the 7th Mekong-Lancang Cooperation (MLC) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held in Bagan, Myanmar on July 4.
The statement said that China would forge ahead with the plan despite the ongoing severe Covid-19 restrictions in place nationwide, highlighting that the country was the number-one buyer of Cambodian milled rice in the January-June period.
The latter claim is backed by a report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, which shows that China bought 168,280 tonnes – or 51.4 per cent – of the Cambodian milled rice exported during the period, up by 17.44 per cent year-on-year.
Total milled-rice exports in the January-June period amounted to 327,200 tonnes, up by 16.67 per cent year-on-year, and, aside from China, went to 23 EU countries (98,624 tonnes; up 46.90 per cent), four ASEAN member states (28,680 tonnes; up 5.69 per cent) and 23 other markets (31,616 tonnes; down 26.28 per cent).
China increased its annual quota for jasmine, fragrant, white and broken varieties of Cambodian milled rice by 100,000 tonnes each year, from 100,000 in 2016 to 400,000 in 2019, where it remains today.
Hun Lak, chairman of the Cambodia Rice Federation, the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body, told The Post that negotiations to increase the annual quota were underway, and that China’s willingness to step up its purchases of Cambodian milled rice presents a significant opportunity for exporters, producers and other relevant stakeholders.
Lak is optimistic that the meeting between Sokhonn and Wang offers a “positive sign and an opportunity” to ramp up production for export.
However, rising shipping costs due to China’s Covid-19 lockdowns, difficulties in booking vessels to carry the milled rice to the country, and other major obstacles have put a damper on export plans, he rued.
CRF secretary-general Lun Yeng told The Post that the federation expects Cambodian milled-rice exports to fill the 400,000-tonne quota this year, prompting the figure to be raised to 500,000 tonnes for 2023, “given the commitment of the leaders of the two countries”.