Thursday, August 3, 2017


The Guardian (Jul. 15) has an interesting article on what may lie ahead in terms of dealing with climate change directly. 
The study mentions does limit itself to maize, but one can imagine that if wheat would likewise become vulnerable, it could well have direct effect on rice / rice prices as rice will become a substitute crop:
'Governments may be seriously underestimating the risks of crop disasters occurring in major farming regions around the world, a study by British researchers has found.
The group found there is a 6% chance every decade that a simultaneous failure in maize production could occur in China and the US – the world’s main growers – which would result in widespread misery, particularly in Africa and south Asia, where maize is consumed directly as food.
Having studied the risks facing maize production, the group is now following up this work by studying climate impacts on the world’s other staple crops – in particular rice, wheat and soya beans – in order to assess how weather extremes could affect their production'.
Furthermore as most rice growing areas are grown in low lying  areas, indirectly higher rainfall and higher sea levels will affect rice output. A double whammy?

To confirm
A possible major breakthrough. Bangladesh may well be interested in Cambodian rice (Daily Star, Jul. 27), large scale. The only thing btw, counting in Cambodia's favour is it's lower price. The Khmer Times (Aug. 1) is pretty sure:
'Cambodia will reach an agreement with Bangladesh tomorrow for the kingdom’s rice to be exported to the South Asian country, according to an official in the Commerce Ministry.
“Under the deal, Bangladesh will import 1 million tonnes of milled rice from Cambodia for 5 years,” said Soeung Sophary, the ministry’s spokesperson yesterday'.
Other rice business news. The Phnom Penh Post (Jul. 12) reports on the exports obtained:
'Cambodian rice exports increased marginally during the first half of the year as export companies push to fulfil higher quotas destined for China.
Rice exports totalled 288,562 tonnes in the first six months of the year, an increase of 7.6 percent compared to the same time last year, according to the latest data published by the Secretariat of One Window Service for Rice Export Formality.
Exports to China accounted for 94,000 tonnes compared to France’s 37,000 tonnes and Poland’s 25,000 tonnes.
Despite the uptick in growth, Hean Vanhan, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, admitted that the figures showed a slow growth trend. He urged the private sector to increase capacity and secure more international orders to strengthen export potential'.
The China Daily (Jul. 8) chimes in but somehow is more upbeat:
'Cambodia exported 94,720 tons of milled rice to China in the first six months of 2017, up 101 percent compared to the same period last year, according to a government report on Friday'.
Elsewhere on the rice business front. The Phnom Penh Post (Jul. 12):
'Amru Rice, one of Cambodia’s largest rice exporters, signed a contract farming purchase agreement with 4,000 organic rice farmers in Preah Vihear province, reserving about $7 million to purchase nearly 20,000 tonnes of organic paddy during the upcoming harvest season, according to a press release yesterday'.
Then some sideline business. 
The Phnom Penh Post (Jul. 6) reports this curious note:
'The Preah Vihear Provincial Agriculture Department on Monday ordered its staff to help farmers by buying up invasive golden apple snails that are currently destroying their rice fields, according to the head of the department'.
While the Khmer Times (Jul. 3) shows how Sino-Cambodian rice business is dealt with:
'A feasibility study into the possibility of establishing a series of warehouses and kiln for rice farmers is exploring how to improve the quality of storage in the industry.
Mr Lak [vice president of Cambodia Rice Federation] could not confirm where the first warehouse and kiln will be located, but according to Jin Yu Hui, vice governor of Jilin province, Battambang is the priority area'.
As is seen by the above the region has also been counting how much rice was exported in the first half of the year and simultaneously spinning some other rice news.

Vietnembreakingnews (Jul. 6) kicks off:
'Vietnam’s rice output during the winter-spring crop was estimated at 19.1 million tonnes, a year-on-year decrease of 1.5 percent, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development'.
Oddly the Bangkok Post (Jul. 6) reports on Vietnam:
'Vietnam has outlined plans to boost revenues from rice exports over the next decade by focusing on a higher quality product and selling more outside Asia.
The world's third-biggest rice producer wants to boost production of higher-quality 5% and 10% broken rice and decrease output of 15% broken rice, according to a paper published on the government's website.
Last year, the country's total rice exports fell by 27% to 4.8 million tonnes as it faced rising competition from Asian rivals, as well as policy changes in China and a fall in domestic production due to drought and high water salinity.
Exports rebounded 14% in the first half of this year to an estimated 2.96 million tonnes'.
Continuing with Vietnam, Vietnamnet (Jul. 9) reports which seems to disregard the above that already 4.8 million tonnes are being exported:
'Vietnam aims to export 4 million tonnes of rice in 2030 under a 2017-2020 rice export development strategy with a vision to 2030 recently approved by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc'.
What am I missing?
Then the Bangkok Post (Aug. 2) reports on Thailand: 
'Thailand is likely to export 11 million tonnes of rice this year, higher than its target, Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn said on Wednesday.
"Thailand is negotiating rice deals with many countries such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh," Ms Apiradi told reporters.
"This will help improve Thai rice prices and push our export volume up to 11 million tonnes," she said.
Thailand, the world's second-biggest rice exporter after India, set an export target of 10 million tonnes for 2017.
It has exported 6.3 million tonnes of rice so far this year, an increase of 16% from the same period last year'.
Away from the data news, the region has more to note on rice growing and business in general.
The Vientiane Times (Aug. 1) realizes that dealing with China is not so easy:
'Rice exports from Laos to China have been affected by the high standard conditions formulated by Chinese authorities, according to a leading Lao rice producer.
A Chinese company ordered 7,200 tonnes of rice last year but the country was unable to supply this amount as the standard required by Chinese buyers is very high, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce reported'. (Jul. 6) blames lower prices on the Thai junta's policy of pushing foreign workers out:
'"Prices have gone down because the baht has weakened," a trader in Bangkok said. The mass exodus of migrant workers since June 23 following the introduction of new labour regulations by the Thai military government has also hit the Thai rice industry with labour shortages.
"The shortage of workers at warehouses and at the docks has led to delay in the loading of shipment and this has hurt exporters' confidence in their ability to fulfil shipments," said another Bangkok-based rice trader.
More than half of the labour force in the Thai rice industry are migrant workers from neighbouring Cambodia and about three quarters of this workforce have left the country, said Chookiat Ophaswongse, president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association.
The Thai government has since delayed parts of the new labour law, but many migrant workers have yet to return.
"Thai exporters hesitate to take new order because of the labour shortage and many potential international buyers are thinking twice about buying Thai rice because of this uncertainty," Chookiat said.
The labour shortage could raise the cost of production of Thai off-season crop, he said, which is expected to arrive from around August to September'.
Vietnamplus (Jul. 4) shares with us, news from Thailand:
'Thailand’s rice insurance scheme for this year’s first crop began on July 3 after it was approved by the cabinet last week.
The programme, worth 2 billion THB (around 58.84 million USD), will be run by the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC).
It is expected to be applied on 25-30 million rai (40.000- 48.000 square kilometres) of rice farmland and cover insurance for natural disasters, including floods, droughts, storms, cold, hail and fires'.
While the Thai nation is waiting to be brought up to terms with what punishment the junta will implement on it's democratic predessor (for a popular free hand-out to all rice farmers), The Nation (Jul. 15) opens up about current practices in the rice business:
'Govt accused of rice sale irregularities 
MEMBERS of the Pheu Thai Party have asked the Auditor General to investigate the government’s programme of rice auctions dating to the 2014 coup, alleging irregularities that have caused losses to the state.
The party members led by Yuttapong Charasathein, a former deputy minister of agriculture and Cooperatives, yesterday filed a complaint with the Office of the Auditor General over the alleged irregularities.
Chief among their concerns is that rice fit for human consumption had been declared low grade, and was auctioned off for animal feed and industrial purposes. The sale of rice stocks classified in that category fetched lower prices and, the MPs claim, resulted in reduced government revenue.
Deputy director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, Keerati Rushchano, yesterday denied an allegation made by the Pheu Thai members that that the irregularities in the government’s rice auctions had caused losses of around Bt10 billion.
He said department did not approve a bid to pay Bt11.25 per kilogram for food-grade rice at one auction because the offer did not meet minimum price threshold set by the authorities. While authorities approved Bt 6.10 per kilogram in a later round auction because the bulk of that rice was not food grade.
Meanwhile, Somporn Isvilanonda, a rice expert and member of the committee examining rice quality, said that the Pheu Thai politicians might be trying to play political games with their complaint to the Auditor General. He assured that the rice auctions were transparent'.
Extraordinarily the Bangkok Post (Jul. 19) follows suit and tries to expand on the Nation:
'Even though the military government has vowed to push for reforms in a number of key areas, it seems to have overlooked a critical issue also in need of reform: The management of the state's rice stockpiles.
For decades, the Department of Foreign Trade, under the Commerce Ministry, annually called for bids for state rice stocks to unload pledged rice kept in government warehouses under the rice subsidy policy of previous governments.
Scandals have similarly arisen regarding the ministry's rice-bidding scheme almost every year. Rice auctions under this government are no exception. So what, exactly, is going on?
Taking a closer look at the political interests as well as established personal connections within the realm of rice trading helps shed light on the problem.
Rice is always a valuable political commodity frequently exploited by politicians as a tool to woo votes from farmers. Moreover, numerous politicians or their relatives are rice traders or exporters themselves.
While there are many players in the domestic rice trade, many of them are in fact from the same group. For example, several companies participating in the same state auctions for agricultural products have been found to be subsidiaries of the same major rice-exporting corporations.
In addition, some major rice traders have strong ties with political players. They have long developed close relationships with state officials, potentially influencing their decision-making process.
A recent controversy over "the unfair disqualification" of a bidder in the latest round of rice auctions, exposed to the media by former Democrat MP Watchara Petchthong, is telling.
TPK Ethanol Co, earlier filed a complaint with the Central Administrative Court accusing the Department of Foreign Trade of unfairly disqualifying its winning bid in a 525,000-tonne rice auction in April, even though it offered the highest price.
The court late last month issued an injunction order to suspend the Department of Foreign Trade's auctions for 2.7 million tonnes of inedible rice which was meant to go to the animal feed industry.
In a written response to the company, the department said that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, as the national rice policy committee chairman, and Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Gen Chatchai Sarikulya, as the deputy chairman, had approved the disqualification.
The department's director-general Duangporn Rodphaya said TPK Ethanol had been ruled out because one of its managers served as a director at two companies which had been found to have breached a contract with the department 20 years ago in a cassava price-pledging scheme.
In response, TPK Ethanol executives submitted a letter to the Supreme Administrative Court countering the department's appeal.
The company claims the department's move was discriminatory and applied a "double standard", saying there were three other companies which were not eligible for the auction but were allowed to take part in it anyway.
The first company is comprised of a group of rice traders who were also found to have breached an auction contract last year under a different business entity. The company's board of directors is the same as those of the previous entity, the letter said.
The second company, it alleges, was implicated by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) for its involvement in a corruption case related to the government-to-government rice trading scheme implemented by the former government. One of the company's directors is even a suspect facing charges by the NACC, the letter said.
The third one is a rice company which had a dispute with the department over rice auctions but was allowed to join the auction after registering itself under a new company name, said TPK Ethanol.
Another allegation, raised by some Pheu Thai Party members, regarding the rice bidding management scheme under this government, is also awaiting a clear-cut response.
Pheu Thai Party members, led by Yuttapong Charasathein, former deputy agriculture and cooperatives minister, accused the military government of selling 2.14 million tonnes of fragrant rice as animal feed at a knockdown price.
Some traders proposed to buy rice from the government at 11.25 baht per kilogramme but their proposals were declined. But the state later sold the rice at 6.10 baht a kilogramme. This problem existed in 18 warehouses, they claim.
This practice has caused heavy losses in the government's rice stock disposals, while the buck has been passed to the last government, they said.
Although the department claims that the rice was sold at such a low price because its quality had deteriorated and was thus inedible, it has yet to provide the public with a satisfactory answer'.
Bangkok Post (Jul. 31) notes :
'Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd has accused politicians and rice mill owners who are calling for a new inspection of rice stocks under the controversial rice-pledging scheme of being part of a politically-motivated movement. 
Previously, the owners of eight rice warehouses had called on the government to conduct a new round of quality checks on rice under the scheme, saying they weren't confident in the results of past
inspections conducted by officials. According to warehouse owners, normal rice was auctioned along with rice used for producing animal feed, which is a waste of money. They claimed they weren't aware of the government's intention to sell the rice as ingredients in animal feed until the days on which the auctions were held. They added their move should help prevent further losses that could be worth several billion baht'.
After this come a couple of examples and legal arguments'.
So even if convicted, it seems that there will be no end to popularizing and using rice as a stick with which to hit political opponents. Why I beg, should the government be meddling not only in setting prices but in trade as well?

Back to Cambodia, where prices of corn have lead to protests. The Cambodia Daily (Jul. 17):
'After about 500 protesting farmers blockaded a national road in Battambang province last week, local authorities in neighboring districts are now making efforts to placate hundreds of other farmers also restless over depressed corn and cassava prices.
In Banteay Meanchey province’s O’Chrou district, district governor San Sien Ho said yesterday that he had been pre-empting possible protest by visiting local families and asking for patience, though he admitted there was little authorities could do.
On Thursday, corn farmers in Battambang’s Kamrieng district blocked National Road 57B for more than eight hours and called on the government to find a solution to their plight. The following day, farmers and local officials met for six hours, and tycoon Phou Puy offered to buy their corn and dry it himself. Farmers, however, said the offered price of 3.4 baht, or about $0.10, per kilogram wasn’t enough'.
Phnom Penh Post (Jul. 17) reports on the same:
'Farmers in two Battambang districts shut down major roads over the weekend, in protest of low corn prices, according to local officials.
Song Sopheak, Phnom Proek district police chief, said that around 100 families blocked the roads in his district on Saturday for more than two hours. Sopheak said the villagers drove tractors onto national roads 59B and 57, demanding authorities help negotiate a better price.
“They said this year the corn price is down, so they want the authority to help them negotiate with the broker. They said this year the broker only gives them 3.1 baht [around $0.09] per kilo of corn. So now the villagers want 3.4 baht, and the dealers agreed to buy with this price,” Sopheak said, adding that last year corn was sold for 4 baht per kilo.
Kim Ponlork, Sopheak’s counterpart in Kamrieng district, said around 100 villagers protested in his jurisdiction on Friday as well'.
Then the solution. The Cambodia Daily (Jul. 19):
'Following corn farmers’ protests over low prices last week, the Rural Development Bank has proposed using a government rice subsidy to purchase corn and shore up demand.
Yesterday, Kao Thach, the RDB’s chairman, said the bank’s board had met earlier in the day to discuss the proposal for corn, and it was now sending it to the Finance Ministry for approval. Last week, about 500 farmers in Battambang province’s Kamrieng district blocked a national road to protest low prices, and authorities met with corn traders hoping to negotiate better deals. The traders refused to budge, however, from the originally agreed price of 3.5 baht per kg, or about $0.10.
Many crops in Cambodia are produced for export to only a few markets, mainly Thailand or Vietnam, limiting farmers’ options when buyers’ demand flags, he said.
“They only come to buy from us when they don’t produce enough for their use,” Mr. Ngeth added. The issue was exacerbated by Cambodian farmers overproducing crops that did well the previous year, leading to an oversupply, he said. Un Sreyoun, a 40-year-old corn farmer from Kamrieng district, said she hoped for more local buyers to drive up corn prices.
“If more Cambodian traders came, Thai dealers would not dare to lower the price,” Ms. Sreyoun said.
But Mong Reththy, chairman of agro-industrial conglomerate Mong Reththy Group, said his company had bought 1,000 tons of corn from Battambang almost every day this year for his livestock feed factory, and argued that current prices were fair.
“The price [offered] is already good enough for the farmers. Good deal, indeed,” Mr. Reththy said'.
Other non rice news.
The Phnom Penh Post (Jul. 27):
'In an agreement mediated by the International Finance Corporation’s watchdog mechanism, a controversial Vietnamese rubber firm has reached a deal with 11 ethnic minority villages affected by its Ratanakkiri operations to return nearly 20 community “spirit mountains”, restore streams filled or polluted by its activities and repair roads and bridges'.
One needs to note that those companies not with a World Bank interest, can cheat landowners fair and square, no worries.
Rubber is actually on the up. The Phnom Penh Post (Jul. 20):
'Cambodian rubber exports surged 37 percent during the first half of the year, compared to the same period in 2016, as the Kingdom’s rising harvest capacity coincided with firmer global demand for rubber products.
Local producers exported 70,000 tonnes of rubber during the first six months of 2017, compared to 51,000 tonnes during the same period a year earlier, an agriculture official said yesterday.
Pol Sopha, general director of the Rubber Department at the Ministry of Agriculture, said prices also improved during the first six months of the year, with the median export price on natural rubber rising 76 percent year-on-year to $1,771 per tonne. He said the improved prices should help plantation owners and farmers offset some of their losses from recent years, when prices nosedived on slower demand and a glut in world supply'.
An interesting article from the Phnom Penh Post (Jul. 6) on the pepper business:
'Cambodia rice mogul Song Saran, the CEO of one of the Kingdom’s top rice exporters, will diversify his agricultural business interests with the construction of a factory to clean and process locally grown pepper, he said yesterday.
The new factory is being built on 3,000 square metres of land in Memot district of Tbong Khmum province, which accounts for over 70 percent of Cambodia’s pepper harvest.
Its pepper cleaning and processing line is scheduled to open next month and reach its full capacity of 15 tonnes per day by January.
Saran, CEO of Amru Rice and three other sister companies engaged in rice production and export, said the new $400,000 factory is an investment by Amret Rungroeung Group Ltd, a trading firm he established in 2009.
He said the company would initially focus on processing black pepper, but it could eventually add separate production lines for other spices, such as ginger and turmeric.
“We’ll focus on black pepper first as we’ve seen the pepper industry grow very rapidly and we cannot depend only on Thailand and Vietnam as buyers,” he said. “We need to build up our own market and connect to the world.”
According to Saran, this will be only the second processing factory to set up in the pepper-growing region. Buyers in the EU and Dubai have already agreed to purchase shipments of 2,000 to 3,000 tonnes per year, he added'.
It's questionable whether or not Cambodia needs to scale up it's pepper business. But it seems inevitable.

Other crops, other problems. 
The Bangkok Post (Jul. 25) reports on the continuing saga of sugar:
'Sugar prices will be closely monitored despite the government's commitment to the World Trade Organization to free up the production and trading system of the commodity by December, says the Ministry of Commerce. 
Permanent secretary Wiboonlasana Ruamraksa said sugar is on the ministry's control list -- goods whose retail prices are not allowed to be increased -- and is expected to remain so after Dec 1 when the government is due to liberalise the sugar system'.
Bangkok Post (Jul. 10) is less enthusiastic on rubber:
'Discontent among southern rubber farmers against the government has grown even as the government explained it has done its best to ease their woes stemming from plummeting rubber prices.
Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said on Monday it was imperative that farmers understand world rubber prices were dictated by economic factors such as interest rates and oil prices. In the first five months of this year, exports of natural rubber jumped 63.6% to $2.8 billion. Rubber product exports such as tyres and gloves also surged 59% to $4 billion and the momentum continues, he said.
But southern farmers are taking issue with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who said last week 3 million rai of forests had been encroached to grow rubber trees, resulting in a glut'.
Vientiane Times (Jun. 27) has an insight on how coffee trade is undertaken:
'Dao-Heuang Group will seek to repay the money it owes the country’s coffee farmers as soon as possible after the company fell several months behind in payments for the raw beans. 
The company now owes farmers a total of 27 billion kip after it paid off significant debts according to the Champassak provincial Industry and Commerce Department.
The remaining 27 billion kip is owed to almost 2,000 farming families, he said.
Dao-Heuang Group is the largest coffee buyer in Laos, leaving many coffee growers with few alternatives to sell their product as demand from other companies remains limited. The company has confirmed that it will pay all money to farmers but not the timescale.
Coffee remains a key commercial export crop in Laos, and the nation’s product continues to be popular among people from home and abroad while increasingly well-accepted in the international market. The challenges for the industry carry on as the world price for coffee has dropped significantly over the past few months.
According to the Lao Coffee Association, robusta beans are down from US$2,100 in March to US$2,014 this month. 
Falls have been even more spectacular for the higher grade Arabica, which was selling at US$ 3,100 in March before falling to US$2,500 a tonne this month.
The value of coffee exports through the Lao Coffee Association has reached 21,000 tonnes worth more than US$50 million.
This figure is expected to increase in terms of volume and value for the current year'.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017


The best news on rice production in Cambodia may well be from an official news source, the Agence Kampuchea Presse (Jun. 5):
'Demand for organic rice is on the upturn both in domestic and international markets, according to local media report.
The report examined the trend grounding on positive performance of a leading local non-governmental organisation known as CEDAC – Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture – that promotes organic rice growing and exports.
CEDAC Executive Director Mr. Sam Vitou was quoted claiming that his organisation has so far purchased almost 5,000 tons of organic rice from farmers – the amount that doubles last year, thanks to the increasing demand for the product.
According to the executive director, the increase has been driven by both local and international markets; and the current biggest markets for the organic rice are the United States of America and Hong Kong of China.
Inspired by the trend, CEDAC is expected to encourage some 2,500 farmer households in ten provinces of Cambodia to produce 12,000 tons of organic rice for 2017-2018.
The exporting organic rice, emphasised the source, undergoes standardised technical testing for harmful chemical substances in order to guarantee the product quality among the customers'.
Meanwhile officialdom is still in a quandary as to what to call Cambodian rice. Or better said, how to market Cambodian rice produce. The Khmer Times (Jun. 5):
'Government task forces will meet this week to finalise a single brand under which Cambodian rice will be exported.
Those at the meeting will include the Cambodia Rice Federation, the Agriculture Ministry and the Commerce Ministry.
“We don’t know when the exact date for registration will be because they just applied for registration last week,” said Op Rady, director of the intellectual property rights department of the Ministry of Commerce.
“We have talked several times. The CRF wants to use the name Angkor Malis but the Agriculture Ministry suggested it reconsider the name.
Hean Vanhan, director-general the general directorate of agriculture, said registration of a single rice brand was the duty of the commerce ministry.
Agriculture officials said Cambodia had more than 10 varieties of fragrant rice, and should not single out one as a single brand.
He suggested that a non-specific ‘Angkor Rice,’ with the specific variety written underneath would help clear up the confusion and prevent people from thinking they were buying a specific rice variety when they might be buying a different premium rice'.
Rice storage means good. The Khmer Times (Jun. 7):
'Rice millers can expect a certain degree of price stability in their exports with the construction of a 200,000-tonne capacity rice warehouse and a 3,000-tonne silo facility in Battambang province'.
But is the following still good? The Phnom Penh Post (Jul. 3):
'A proposal for a massive warehouse and silo that has attracted two Chinese investors aims to fill the Kingdom’s conspicuous gap in paddy rice storage capacity, which still falls 60 percent short of the level needed for the country to achieve its goal of 1 million tonnes of annual rice exports.
Private Chinese firms Jilin Province Investment Group Co Ltd and Jilin Tianzhong Agriculture Development Co Ltd signed a memorandum of understanding on Thursday with local conglomerate Soma Group to build a “huge” storage facility to serve Cambodia’s rice producers.
According to Hun Lak, vice president of the Cambodia Rice Federation, the companies will conduct a feasibility study to determine the location and investment size of the initial storage complex, with Battambang and Takeo provinces favoured. Additional storage facilities could be developed in other areas, he said'.
And then some news on how international donors keep the ball rolling. The Cambodia Daily (Jun. 21):
'A World Bank subsidiary will soon start training 2,000 farmers contracted to supply a leading Cambodian rice exporter on how to meet an international farming standard.
The International Finance Corporation will work with Amru Rice over three years to implement the U.N.-led Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) in Kompong Cham province, the two organizations announced on Tuesday in a statement.
Farmers will be scored on 46 criteria, including record keeping, seed variety, pesticide choice, water management and the use of child labor.
Hean Vanhorn, deputy director-general at the Agriculture Ministry, said it was the first time the standard was being introduced to the sector, and explained that the project could help contract farmers market their paddy rice'.
Bird conservation and dry season rice cropping. A very interesting article though the obvious outcome may well be depressing. (Jun. 20):
'I’d been in Cambodia six weeks, and this was one of the last villages left to survey. I was researching the impact of local communities’ livelihoods on a critically endangered bustard species; the Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis). Fewer than 1,500 florican remain globally, over 60% of which seasonally reside in the grasslands of Kampong Thom province, central Cambodia.
Male florican are distinctive. If you’re lucky, between February and April you may spy their beautiful black and white bodies leaping 30 metres into the air; performing to impress shy females. However, opportunities for encountering such moments are increasingly rare. In recent decades florican have undergone dramatic population declines, initially driven by over-hunting, but now by widespread habitat loss, primarily due to rice cultivation.
It was believed dry season rice was typically grown between December and March. However, my interviews revealed that nearly half of all dry season rice farmers now farm two crops of rice a year, extending the rice cultivation season into June. This is a relatively recent and previously undocumented trend, with significant implications for florican, who visit grasslands from February to July. Expansion of dry season rice not only means less habitat is available for floricans to forage and breed, but it also reduces the time for which it is available. Floricans return to the same large territories each year to mate. This means the miniscule populations that remain are likely returning to increasingly sub-optimal habitat.
In addition, around 95% of the dry season rice farmers I spoke to said that they use fertiliser or pesticides on their crop. Many have to borrow money in order to do so, and sometimes if their crops fail or the market collapses, they may find themselves indebted to credit lenders, forced to sell land to clear their debts. There are also considerable environmental and ecological implications. Agro-chemicals not only reduce food availability, but they typically include substances banned in the West, including DDT, a chemical known to cause egg thinning in birds'.
Thailand is in the throes of the aftermath of the democratically endorsed and highly popular rice pledging scheme, which current junta uses as a stick to thrash it's democratic predecessor. The Asian Correspondent (Jun. 28):
'IN an editorial this week, Bangkok-based daily The Nation issued a crucial reminder to the country – let cooler heads prevail when the curtains close on Yingluck Shinawatra’s rice subsidy case.
The popular English-language broadsheet’s editors said the outcome of the case, whichever way it goes, has the potential of turning what they described as a period of “suspenseful peace” into one of major uproar'.
Oddly it ends the article thus:
'The only way to avoid turmoil and this “vicious cycle” of unrest, they said, is by calmly looking at evidence from both sides with open minds before passing judgment'.
As if the Thai judiciary normally functions differently.

The Bangkok Post (Jul. 1) mentions on-subject:
'The Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) has pushed forward with its investigation into allegations of corruption in the rice-pledging scheme by inviting for questioning suspects in five cases, the PACC chief says'.
Meanwhile the old crop is getting sold. Bangkok Post (Jun. 7):
'The National Rice Policy Committee has approved the 16.56-billion-baht sale of 1.66 million tonnes of old rice to auction winners, leaving only 160,000 tonnes of edible rice in the stockpile.
Since the May 2014 coup, the military government has sold more than 14 million tonnes of old rice by auction, fetching about 130 billion baht. The Commerce Ministry plans to call for bids for old rice fit for animal feed this month, and for ethyl alcohol production next month'.
What this means for the market. The Bangkok Post (Jun 20):
'With state rice stockpiles nearly sold off and major rice-producing nations suffering bad weather, Thai rice exports are likely to hit a record high this year, say government and industry officials.
Thailand's 2017 rice exports are tipped to reach 11 million tonnes, the most ever, because of rising demand in rice-importing countries at a time that production in grower countries is falling.
But Thai rice supply is limited because of the 2016 drought and the government's policy to encourage farmers to switch to other lucrative crops such as sugar, which has substantially cut supply from the off-season crop dropped by more than 40% from 9-10 million tonnes on average over the past few years to just 5 million tonnes this year, according to data supplied by the Agriculture Ministry'.
So what does the current regime plan? The Bangkok Post (Jun. 28):
'The cabinet yesterday approved a rice insurance scheme for the first crop of the 2017 season, worth 2 billion baht.
The government expects the scheme to cover 25-30 million rai of rice farmland. The scheme covers six natural disasters: floods, drought, storms, cold, hail and fires'.
Foreign good
Over to Vietnam. Vietnam has it's own problems concerned with marketing their rice produce. Vietnamnet (Jun. 12):
'According to VIBIZ, the market research and analysis website owned by Global Yoilo JSC, 64 percent of rice in the domestic market is Vietnamese but is labeled as foreign rice so that sellers can make higher profits.
Meanwhile, 53 percent of consumers say they like foreign rice grown in Thailand, Cambodia and Japan.
A report of the company said of the 67 rice products in the domestic market, only 21 products are given Vietnamese names.
“Vietnamese prefer foreign rice because they hear Thai and Japanese farmers grow rice with high technologies,” he [Nguyen Van Nam, a renowned economist, and former head of the Trade Research Institute] explained. “They have no information about how rice is grown in Vietnam.”
“Therefore, merchants give foreign names to Vietnam’s rice to sell more products,” he said, adding that Vietnam only imports rice from Cambodia and Thailand in small quantities.
Tran Duy Quy, former head of the Institute of Agricultural Genetics of Vietnam, confirmed that Vietnam has been importing rice from Cambodia and Thailand, but in small quantities. As for the so called ‘Japanese rice’, this is Vietnam’s rice labeled as Japanese rice'.
Vietnam is trying to free up it's export process. Vietnamnet (Jun 21):
'The decree, replacing Decree 109/2010/NĐ-CP on rice export and business, is expected to take effect from January 1, 2018, after which businesses will be able to engage in the free trade of rice without quantitative restrictions.
The decree also removes regulations of criteria for businesses to be eligible to export rice, as well as the floor prices set for rice shipments.
Vo Minh Khai, director-general of Vien Phu Organic – Healthy Food Company from the southernmost province of Ca Mau, said that over the past years, rice enterprises that were small scale but produced high-quality rice had not been able to bring their products to the world market.
To export their rice, they had to depend on large companies as intermediaries. Therefore, revising the old decree would create a level-playing field for small rice export firms to proactively access the global market, Khai said.
The new document will also enable businesses to invest in producing high-quality products to compete with rivals from Thailand and Cambodia, he added'.
Likewise, the Hanoi Times (Jun. 24) reports on rice prices looking better:
'According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the demand for Vietnam’s 5 percent broken rice, has been rising, hitting 390 USD per tonne in the early days of June, against 360 USD per tonne to 380 USD per tonne in late May'.
Even without the dam future, Vietnam seems already to be vexed by Mekong upstream efforts which means less water in the delta. Vietnamnet (Jun. 20):
'According to Nguyen Nhan Quang, a river basin management expert, Thailand has had 990 more projects in the northeast on using Mekong’s water to serve irrigation in the area.
In Cambodia, the strategy on stepping up rice cultivation for export is being implemented, with the country seeking cooperation with foreign countries, mostly from China, to expand the irrigation network.In Laos, the current total irrigation area is 166,476 hectares, but the figure is expected to increase by 213,062 hectares by 2030.
As upstream countries try to expand water use, this will be a great challenge for Vietnam’s Mekong Delta'.
Into the deep
From the Phnom Penh Post (Jun. 21), an article about the downward trend for pepper growers:
'The rapid expansion of pepper cultivation in Cambodia coincides with the spice’s plummeting world prices, creating concerns that the glut of pepper ripening on vines across the Kingdom could further erode next season’s market prices and push the sector toward a collapse. Hean Vanhan, undersecretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, said large-scale planting in recent years, encouraged by the soaring prices, has significantly boosted Cambodia’s pepper production. He said total production doubled last year and has increased eight-fold since 2013, with the impact on supply magnified by similar output growth in other major pepper producing countries.
“According to our figures, the growth of pepper production has increased dramatically, but now the big concern for farmers is that the market has stagnated,” he said yesterday.
Ministry data show total pepper production rose to 20,054 tonnes this year, compared to 11,819 tonnes in 2016, and just 2,498 tonnes in 2013. More than 5,000 hectares are now cultivated with pepper, compared to just 400 hectares in 2013.
Rothsan [Var Rothsan, adviser to the Ministry of Commerce] added that the ministry was also working on developing a new collective trademark for Cambodian pepper aimed at raising the profile of locally produced, non-GI pepper in international markets – a move that could help reduce the reliance on Vietnamese brokers to access these markets.
Yin Sopha, executive director for Memot Dar Pepper Agriculture Development Cooperative, said the domestic farm-gate price of black pepper had fallen to $3.5 per kilo, well below the 2014 high tide mark of $10.5 per kilo. He added that the decline was driving farmers deep into debt'.
Cassava has also all the entrapment's associated with lower prices. The Phnom Penh Post (Jun. 27):
'Cassava prices in Cambodia experienced a sharp drop this month leading to heavy losses for smallholder farmers unable to quickly switch to more profitable crops and recoup their mounting losses, a provincial agriculture official said yesterday.
Faced with low prices of around 144 riel ($0.035) per kilo of fresh cassava at the beginning of the harvest season, which runs from December to April, farmers decided to delay collecting the starchy tuber, only to see prices plummet to a historical low of 108 riel ($0.026) per kilo earlier this month, explained Soy Sopath, agricultural director for Pailin province at the Ministry of Agriculture.
With a breakeven point of 180 riel ($0.044) for fresh cassava, the farmer’s fate went from bad to worse as they are now forced to sell their products at a large loss, he said.
Cassava, which is considered to be a cash crop in Cambodia as it is rarely consumed by locals, is popular to grow as it requires less water and fertilisers, and is less prone to disease than other crops, Sopath explained. The government has made numerous attempts to wean Cambodian farmers away from cassava, yet its cultivation continues to expand.
“Farmers keep harvesting cassava because it is not a complicated crop to grow, and its price might increase next season,” he said.
However, falling prices have seen a decline in cultivation in Pailin province, the heartland of cassava cultivation where 90 percent of farmers are involved in the sector. Total cultivation in the province decreased 20 percent this season compared to last, according to Sopath, who said he expected further decline as farmers look to other more profitable crops.
However, Soeng Sophary, spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce, explained that the Ministry of Agriculture and farmers needed to work together to collect and share information in order to better understand price trends in foreign markets so that farmers could time cassava cultivation to satisfy external demand.
“If farmers and agriculture officials cooperate and work smartly to find the right time for cultivation then they would not suffer from such heavy losses,” she said. “In order to add value to cassava, we need to have better quality standards and more technical expertise for processing it in factories.”
But not all alternatives are in the doldrums. The Phnom Penh Post (Jun. 7) reports on coconut oil.
'The Kingdom’s nascent coconut oil industry is facing a shortage of raw materials as local farmers look to make a quick profit by selling young coconuts to drink vendors rather than letting them mature and sell them to health care and cosmetics producers.
Khdib Sreymich, general manager of Coco Khmer, a Cambodia-based producer of virgin coconut oil, which also manufactures a line of coconut-based health and beauty products, said her company is forced to import coconuts from Vietnamese suppliers to meet consumer demand for the company’s products. She explained that the farmers preferred to sell the coconuts when they were young, though mature fruits, which can be sold for higher prices, are needed for coconut oil production.
According to Sreymich, domestic production can only satisfy 10 percent of the company’s demand for mature coconuts. The remaining 90 percent must be imported from Vietnam'.
And then corn. The Phnom Penh Post (Jun. 22):
'Growing demand for animal feed is driving up both the demand and price of corn, with smallholder farmers claiming the field crop offers a more stable market than cassava.
“If we look at the trends in farming, this sector [corn] has a lot more options than other crops, and is less challenging,” said Lor Reaksmey, spokesman of the Ministry of Agriculture. He added that corn, also known as maize, is needed for food consumption and animal feed mills, with high demand both in the domestic and international markets.
Corn is grown on more than 140,000 hectares in Cambodia and can be harvested twice a year, with the main areas of cultivation being Battambang, Preah Vihear and Kandal provinces. Each hectare yields about 4.5 tonnes, putting Cambodia’s total production at around 640,000 tonnes last year.
Reaksmey explained that over 60 percent of domestically produced corn is earmarked for export, with most of these shipments destined for feed mills in Thailand and Vietnam. The remainder is sold to the Kingdom’s feed mills, with a small amount purchased by local food-processing plants and retailers.
Ministry of Agriculture data shows total corn exports reached 70,487 tonnes last year, a 25 percent increase over 2015.
Despite this rise, local production cannot satisfy the voracious appetite of the Kingdom’s 15 feed mills, said Hort Pheng, director of the Industrial Affairs Department at the Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts'.
A Chinese agrofair in Phnom Penh. Phnom Penh Post (Jun. 29):
'A major international agricultural fair that brought over 800 Chinese companies to the capital wrapped up yesterday with none of the expected investment agreements signed as Chinese investors appeared cautious about setting up agro-processing facilities in the Kingdom, organisers said.
The inaugural International Agriculture Products and Expository kicked off on June 25, drawing some 800 investors from China and 200 local firms to a four-day expo aimed at showcasing the investment potential of Cambodia’s agricultural sector.
Chea Heng, president of the Cambodia-China Development Friendship Alliance (CCDFA), one the expo’s local organisers, said several major memoranda of understanding (MoUs) had been expected during the fair, but none materialised'.
Expiration date
We've focused earlier on the banana growing rage from China which has set up shop in Laos and northern Thailand. The Vientiane Times (Jun. 10) notes that banana growing is going out of fashion as the land leasers are being held to account:
'A number of banana farms in Oudomxay province have ceased operations after their contracts expired following numerous complaints from local residents that their operations were negatively affecting the environment.
The farms are operated by 11 concession holders. Seven companies are still continuing their operations but four companies’ contracts have expired and the authorities will not renew them.
A provincial Agriculture and Forestry Department official, Mr Bounyeun Xayyaven told Vientiane Times yesterday the 11 companies had concessions and rented the land of local residents to operate their banana farms, but four of those companies had ended their work after their contracts expired.
According to a National Assembly report in October last year, some provinces are using too many insecticides, pesticides and chemical fertilisers, but this issue did not feature in reports submitted to the Assembly.
Some people became ill and some allegedly died after pesticide was sprayed on farms, but the reports did not say where this had occurred'.

Monday, June 5, 2017


A short article to set us off. Previously highlighted here, it appears the EU are abating there strictness. Phnom Penh Post (May 31):
'Producers of white rice will have until September to meet the revised threshold level of 0.01 milligrams of Tricyclazole residue per kilo of rice, far below the current limit of 1 milligram per kilo, it said.
The previous deadline for white rice exports was June, while the December deadline for jasmine rice exports remains unchanged'.
It coincides with a recent article in Le Monde (May 29), which highlights how another chemical, atrazine, forbidden in the EU since 2004, still sees substantial production in the same EU with exports heading for countries with less scruples / less legislation. It cites the Swiss organisation Public Eye which in a recent report highlighted exports from Switzerland, France and Italy. On Switzerland: 
'Switzerland is exporting atrazine and paraquat to developing countries. The use of these herbicides, made by the Swiss-based Syngenta, has been banned in Switzerland due to their extreme toxicity'.
And though we're drifting off-topic, I would add the following article on banana growing in Laos. Often quoted, Reuters decided to make a write up. Excerptions of which are from VOA (May 11):
'Experts say the Chinese have brought jobs and higher wages to northern Laos, but have also drenched plantations with pesticides and other chemicals.
Under the "Belt and Road" plan, China has sought to persuade neighbors to open their markets to Chinese investors. For villagers like Kongkaew, that meant a trade-off.
"Chinese investment has given us a better quality of life. We eat better, we live better," Kongkaew said.
But neither he nor his neighbors will work on the plantations, or venture near them during spraying. They have stopped fishing in the nearby river, fearing it is polluted by chemical run-off from the nearby banana plantation.
Several Chinese plantation owners and managers expressed frustration at the government ban, which forbids them from growing bananas after their leases expire.
They said the use of chemicals was necessary, and disagreed that workers were falling ill because of them.
"If you want to farm, you have to use fertilizers and pesticides," said Wu Yaqiang, a site manager at a plantation owned by Jiangong Agriculture, one of the largest Chinese banana growers in Laos.
Hmong and Khmu workers douse the growing plants with pesticides and kill weeds with herbicides such as paraquat. Paraquat is banned by the European Union and other countries including Laos, and it has been phased out in China.
The bananas are also dunked in fungicides to preserve them for their journey to China'.
It just shows hoe the lack of a conscience is the underlying business rule with the large-scale agrochemical industry.

With a slight upswing in the rice market, it comes as no surprise that the Phnom Penh Post (May 18) reports that big brother may well be interested in a bigger part of Cambodia's rice pie:
'China has agreed to increase its import quota for Cambodian rice to 300,000 tonnes by next year, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced yesterday following his return from Beijing where he attended the Belt and Road initiative summit'.
However the Khmer Times (Jun. 2) reports on the downsides on neighbouring actions:
'Cambodian rice millers and exporters are strongly concerned that Thailand’s plan to release 4.32 million tonnes of state rice stocks by September, driven by a sharp surge in global rice demand, could depress prices of the vital grain on commodity markets. “When Thailand sells such a large part of its stockpile on the open market it will have a knock-on effect on prices and in turn also affect the price of Cambodian milled rice exports,” Hun Lak, vice president of the Cambodia Rice Federation, told Khmer Times'.
The same source (Khmer Times, Jun. 5) also delves the depths of the marketing strategy of Cambodia's rice future:
'Government task forces will meet this week to finalise a single brand under which Cambodian rice will be exported.
Hean Vanhan, director-general of the general directorate of agriculture, said registration of a single rice brand was the duty of the commerce ministry. Agriculture officials said Cambodia had more than 10 varieties of fragrant rice, and should not single out one as a single brand.
“The CRF selected ‘Angkor Malis’ as the brand, but this is not right because there is already a rice seed called malis,” Mr Vanhan said.
“What the private sector wants to do is to steal foreign branding to make the rice similar to Thailand, since the Thai Hom Mali is already famous.
“If we use ‘Angkor Malis,’ which is specific only to Cambodian premium rice ‘malis,’ it has a different taste to Cambodian fragrant rice such as phka romduol, phka chansensor and phka khnei.
“If customers buy Angkor Malis one day, it may have a different taste when they buy it in the future, even though it carries the same brand,” Mr Vanhan said.
He suggested that a non-specific ‘Angkor Rice,’ with the specific variety written underneath would help clear up the confusion and prevent people from thinking they were buying a specific rice variety when they might be buying a different premium rice'.
Regionally it's the Thai who are mostly optimistic. From the Bangkok Post (May 30): 
'World rice prices are expected to rise by US$20 (682 baht) a tonne over the next three months, driven by a sharp surge in global rice demand, according to experts. Global rice supply is now quite tight, while Thailand's previously hefty state rice stocks have eased, releasing pressure on global rice prices, Jeremy Zwinger, chief executive of the Rice Trader, said at the "World Rice Trade Outlook" seminar of Thailand Rice Convention 2017, held in Bangkok yesterday. 
Chookiat Ophaswongse, honorary president of the Thai Rice Exporter Association, said lower-than-expected rice production in Vietnam accounts in part for the lower global supply, while Thailand's good-quality rice stocks are about to be depleted.
From Vietnam a similar sentiment, though more cautious. The VNexpress (May 12):
'China and several African countries have returned to Vietnam seeking fragrant and white rice, and the demand has helped stabilize export prices even though supply has risen at the end of a major harvest, traders said on Friday'.
The Vientiane Times (May 5) notes that the Lao dry season rice crop may well disappoint slightly.
'This dry season, the department set a target of 95,000 hectares but until now only about 90,000 hectares have been planted out.
Department officials said a large number of farmers were now growing other crops instead, which earned them more money and required less water. The lack of irrigation occurred because provinces did not have sufficient funds to pay for the repair of irrigation systems, according to the Department of Irrigation'.
Thailand is looking to getting rid of the last of it's inventory. The Bangkok Post (May 16):
'The government yesterday called the second auction for 1.82 million tonnes of state-held rice that is fit for human consumption.
The government is estimated to hold about 4.82 million tonnes of rice stocks, a sharp drop from the 18.7 million tonnes accumulated during 2011-14. 
... From Jan 1 to May 9, Thailand exported 4.1 million tonnes, up 9% from the same period last year, worth US$1.74 billion (60.1 billion baht), up 6% in value'.
An article from (May 30) which looks at an interesting study:
'A study conducted by the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agricultural and Rural Development shows there are nine million rice farming households nationwide, but around 300,000 of them account for the bulk of Vietnam’s rice export volume.
Meanwhile, the nation has over 300,000 rice milling facilities, but a majority of them are small. But in Thailand, there are a mere 1,000 rice milling plants. Besides, Vietnam has around 100 rice exporters, but a mere 22 of them focus on China, one of Vietnam’s largest rice buyers.
Industry experts said these two hindrances had led to the global market share of Vietnamese rice shrinking. Statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development show the country’s rice shipments last year dropped 27% in volume and 23% in value against 2015'.
Meanwhile, a new weapon in the armory of Italy's rice industry hoping to target cheaper rice imports from Cambodia, Burma and potentially Vietnam. From (May 31):
'The Italian government has submitted to Brussels the draft decrees for the introduction of an obligation to indicate the origin of certain the raw materials.16 For rice, the place of cultivation, processing and packaging must be indicated, while for wheat, the place of wheat cultivation and the sowing of the seeds must be indicated. 
To try and counter the imports producers have been calling for better labelling of foodstuffs containing rice so as to indicate to consumers the true origin of the raw materials.
The producers hope that consumers will tend to purchase products with Italian rice rather than imported rice'.
It seems more as a message for domestic markets.

Organics in Cambodia are poised to be government ruled. The Cambodia Daily (Jun. 1):
'The Agriculture Ministry will soon adopt a national standard for organic vegetable production to create product consistency and a single yardstick for farmers to work toward, according to officials.
A logo that will mark the products as government-approved organics has been designed, and a draft law by which the produce quality will be measured is nearly complete, said Kean Sophea, deputy director of the ministry’s department of horticulture'.
How will this work in practice? I doubt that this label would result in better trust by consumers than any other current logo.

Having access to the world market doesn't necessarily mean a positive. Hard work still needs to be done. The Vientiane Times (May 22):
'Although Laos is enjoying Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) exemption from over 50 nations around the world, the country is still unable to fully benefit from the special treatment.
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce recently described a number of challenges Laos is facing in order to fully benefit from trade privileges.
One of the most important points is that Lao businesses don’t fully understand the true benefits and the various procedures of the scheme.
In the meantime, product quality sometimes does not meet the standard requirements as specified by countries at the final destination. 
In addition, Lao businesses produce agricultural goods in small volumes as they are often family concerns and have not done any market research or studied the GSP'.  
More policy talk. The Phnom Penh Post (May 11):
'Cambodia's agricultural sector must improve post-harvest processing to increase the value of its products, while increased knowledge sharing could help farmers better understand the different value chains and identify opportunities, agricultural experts participating in the Grow Asia Forum said yesterday.
Panellists at the event, hosted by Grow Asia and held on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Phnom Penh, also said improving farmers’ access to better seeds and inputs, as well as training, would help them to be more productive'.
More policy talk. I think. Phnom Penh Post (Jun. 2):
'Implementation of a previously announced three-year $20 million programme to increase local vegetable and fragrant rice production will begin next month to help boost domestic supply and reduce imports, an agriculture official said yesterday.
The goal of the project is to increase local production of vegetables by 160 tonnes per day and production of 500,000 tonnes of paddy rice a year, Kean Sophea, deputy director of the Department of Horticulture and Subsidiary Crops at the Agricultural Ministry, said'.
And then an article from the Phnom Penh Post (May 19) highlighting how agricultural policy can develop without government fiddling:
'The Kingdom’s leading palm oil producer has projected revenues of $20 million this year as it targets another record-setting year for crude palm oil exports.
“We plan to export over 30,000 metric tonnes of crude palm oil this year, with revenue of approximately $20 million,” Prachak Kongtanomtham, vice president of Mong Reththy Investment Cambodia Oil Palm Co Ltd (MRIC), said yesterday.
MRIC, a joint venture subsidiary of local agro-industrial conglomerate Mong Reththy Group and Thailand’s TCC Group, exported a record 21,450 metric tonnes of crude palm oil in 2016, generating over $13.3 million in revenue, according to Prachak. 
About 17,000 hectares of MRIC’s palm oil plantations are harvestable. Two other companies operate commercial palm oil plantations in Cambodia, though only one has matured to harvest.
Malaysian-owned Virtus Green Plantations (Cambodia) operates a palm oil plantation on a portion of its 6,700-hectare economic land concession in Kampot province. 
The Kingdom’s other major palm oil plantation is located in Ratanakkiri province, where subsidiaries of Vietnam’s Hoang Anh Gia Lai have planted oil palms on 18,000 hectares. The first harvest is expected by next year'.
The  Bangkok Post (May 24) reports of how Thailand seeks to meet free trade requirements while at the same time manipulating the domestic market:
'Thailand, the world's second-largest sugar exporter, is introducing regulations to govern its sugar trading system for the 2017-18 crop, which commences in November, to bring the system in line with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
Brazil says Thailand's subsidies for sugar producers had dragged down global prices and allowed Thailand to win a larger market share at the expense of Brazilian producers, conduct that is not in line with international trade agreements.

Traders and industry officials said freeing up domestic retail sugar prices could lead to possible sugar shortages, particularly when global sugar prices rise. Traders said sugar production costs in Thailand should be slightly lower than for net sugar importing countries. This could encourage profiteers to smuggle sugar from Thailand to be resold in the neighbouring CLMV countries (Cambodia, Laos,
Myanmar and Vietnam), where sugar prices are around 40% higher than domestic retail prices'.
Also hoping to dampen the local market the Bangkok Post (May 27) reports how stricter food rules will ensure that the domestic consumption will sky-rocket:
'A new bill imposing a maximum of 10% sugar or sweetener content in food products is expected to be passed and come into effect within this year, said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday'.
The article also quotes EU regulation of the same subject. Though I doubt whether or not the EU has legislation on the subject, it's  certainly  clear that the EU sugar industry is very much opposed to any levels. Kudos to the Thai on this subject, let's hope it's an effective policy.

Then what an opener market means. The Phnom Penh Post (May 23):
'Cambodia's biggest sugar mill has finished its two-month production run, producing half a million tonnes of refined white sugar, nearly five times what the company predicted at the beginning of the harvest season, a company representative said yesterday.
Kuy Yoeurn, an administrative manager for Rui Feng (Cambodia) International Co Ltd, said the second harvest season of its $360 million sugar plant in Preah Vihear province greatly exceeded the company’s expectations. He said the mill produced 500,000 tonnes of refined sugar from an undisclosed amount of raw sugarcane this season.
The Cambodian government granted Rui Feng Cambodia an 8,841-hectare economic land concession (ELC) in 2011. However, the Chinese-owned company and its four sister companies collectively hold five separate ELC licences covering 40,000 hectares.
Rui Feng has faced accusations of land-grabbing and using its partner firms to circumvent restrictions on the maximum legal size of land a company can hold as an ELC.
Nevertheless, Yoeurn said Rui Feng has requested that the Ministry of Agriculture provide the company with more land to expand its cultivation of sugarcane.
“We need to increase our sugarcane cultivation,” he said. “So far, we have already farmed all of our land and it is still not enough. The ministry should provide us with more land for cultivation.”