Cambodia exported 153,688 tonnes of milled rice in the first quarter (Q1) of this year, representing a 77,260-tonne or 33.45-per-cent drop from the 230,948 tonnes posted in January-March 2020, according to Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon.
This comes amid a container shortage – largely seen as the main cause of the decline in exports – which observers note has fuelled a sharp rise in shipping costs.
Sakhon said fragrant rice accounted for 107,339 tonnes of the exports, or 69.84 per cent, of which jasmine rice varieties – such as Phka Romduol – clocked in at 57,714 tonnes, or 37.55 per cent of the total.
And white long-grain rice accounted for 43,777 tonnes (28.48 per cent) and long-grain parboiled rice reached 2,572 tonnes (1.67 per cent), he said.
The minister said 51 exporters shipped milled rice to 41 countries during the period – China, 19 EU countries, three ASEAN member states and 18 other destinations.
China remained the largest market for the grain with 85,370 tonnes imported, equivalent to 55.55 per cent of Cambodia’s total milled-rice exports.
EU markets imported 35,442 tonnes (23.06 per cent), ASEAN countries imported 11,658 tonnes (7.59 per cent) and the 18 other destinations accounted for 21,218 tonnes (13.81 per cent).
In 2019, China agreed to increase its import quota for Cambodian milled-rice to 400,000 tonnes per annum.
Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) secretary-general Lun Yeng told The Post that rising international shipping costs, especially to Europe, were becoming a major obstacle to the Kingdom’s 2021 milled-rice export plans.
Yorn Sovann, CEO of agricultural exporter Bayon Cereal Co Ltd, said the spiralling rates, coupled with high productions costs, have blunted the competitiveness of Cambodian products on the international market.
“The shortage of containers has become a global crisis that most exporting countries are experiencing, like ours. I hope this will improve soon,” he said.
Chan Pich, general manager of rice miller and exporter Signatures of Asia Co Ltd, told The Post late last month that it now costs $4,000-$5,000 to ship a 20-foot container – the standard for milled-rice exports – to Europe, surging $800-$1,000 from end-2020.
“In my personal opinion, I think Cambodia’s milled-rice exports will fail to outperform last year’s – they’ll be on par though,” he said.
Last year, the Kingdom exported 690,829 tonnes of milled rice worth nearly $539 million, marking an 11.40 per cent surge in volume from 2019, according to CRF. Chinese-bound shipments of the commodity weighed in at 289,439 tonnes, accounting for 41.90 per cent.