'A newly formed coalition of rice millers and exporters has raised alarm bells, forecasting the imminent “collapse” of the nation’s rice sector within two years and blaming in part “governance failure” by the industry’s apex body'.
'Responding to criticism, Cambodia’s apex rice industry body announced yesterday that it would submit a plan to Prime Minister Hun Sen that addresses two of the major challenges facing the Kingdom’s rice sector – competition from rice imports and access to finance for millers.The Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), which has come under fire from members critical of the direction in which the nation’s rice industry is being steered, will ask the government to make it mandatory for rice importers to have licences, and ask for its help in facilitating low-interest loans for millers, the federation revealed at a press conference yesterday'.
'Two main issues will be put to the government when it holds an urgent meeting with the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) next week – a special fund package to help millers and exporters and a ban on imported rice from neighboring countries.
The special meeting was set up after complaints from the CRF outlined problems with a lack of funds to support production, imported rice from neighboring countries, the high cost of production, the high cost of logistics, the high cost of electricity, a lack of water, finding good seed stock, a lack of farm labor due to immigration and limited infrastructure and port storage facilities. The CRF claims that about 40 percent of the small- and medium-sized rice millers and exporters are close to stopping production and going bankrupt'.
Let's see what the government can come up with ...'The Commerce Ministry has created a special taskforce to study challenges threatening the sustainability of the nation’s rice industry and will report its findings within two weeks, a ministry official said yesterday'.
'A pilot project that offers micro-insurance to help rice farmers cope with the risks of flooding and drought is looking to build on the success of its first season by scaling up beyond three existing provinces. The Cambodia Micro Agriculture Insurance Scheme (CAMAIS), launched in the second half of 2015, aims to support local smallholder farmers by providing insurance payouts to those affected by severe weather-related events attributed to climate change. Rice farmers who join the scheme pay an insurance fee at the start of the growing season based on the size of their farm, type of paddy grown and technical tools used. In return, they receive consultation on farming techniques and get an insurance payout if their crop is damaged either by flood or drought....According to Youssey [project manager of CAMAIS], 153 agricultural families joined the micro-insurance scheme during its first season, paying a total premium of $1,230 to insure 136 hectares of rice farms. At the end of the season, roughly 80 per cent of this collected capital was used to settle farmers’ claims, with the rest used to cover operational expenses and commissions for agents.Around half of the rice farmers that purchased the crop insurance made compensation claims based on varying amounts of crop damage; however, only 52 of these claims met the criteria for receiving compensation, Youssey said'.
'Extensive groundwater irrigation jeopardises access for shallow domestic water supply wells, raises the costs of pumping for all groundwater users, and may exacerbate arsenic contamination and land subsidence that are already widespread hazards in the regio, ...'.
'Local tractor dealers have reported strong sales of new equipment. Ngorn Saing, CEO for RMA (Cambodia) Co Ltd, exclusive local distributor of John Deere tractors, said his company sold about 300 tractors last year, a 30 per cent year-on-year increase. He projects similar growth in the coming year as farmers increasingly turn to mechanised farm help'.
'However, Cambodian exporters can sell rice to the European market. The EU is the biggest consumer of Cambodian rice.
Why can Cambodia sell rice to the EU, while Vietnam, the second largest rice exporter in the world, cannot?
According to the Commercial Affairs Division of the Vietnamese Embassy in Cambodia, Cambodian businessmen can export rice to the EU because they can enjoy preferences'.
And again, the Bangkok Post (Mar. 11) looks at the government programme of weaning Thai farmers off rice:
'Ms Prapatpon, 48, returned to school last month for a state-funded training programme designed to wean farmers off water-intensive rice and teach them how to grow other crops.....Going back to school was meant to give farmer ms Prapatpon fresh ideas and new strategies for survival on her farm in Chai Nat province. Instead, she said: "I can't apply any of this."....For farmer-turned-student Chaiyapoj Phak-on, the past two years have been a harsh contrast to the heady days of the previous government's income-propping rice-buying programme, which he called "the best time of my life."
In similar vein: trying the tried. The Bangkok Post (Feb. 26) has a wide article exploring all what's wrong with Thai agriculture and trying to put the blame with one person.'THAI Prime Minister and junta head Prayuth Chan-ocha lost his temper at a Reuters journalist at Government House today, apparently over the news agency’s recent interview with former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.The reporter asked Prayuth about the cost of the damage of the rice-pledging scheme, which was implemented by the previous government under ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra – Thaksin’s sister.Prayuth said the number had not been finalized yet and would be announced later.Then sparks flew.“Why? You really want it now? You must tell Reuters to say [write] better yesterday [Tuesday],” he snapped, according to The Nation.He then abruptly left the podium for his upstairs office'.
Oddly it's the Thai Rice Exporters Association which is assisting with the accusations that the previous government sold rice to China at lower prices than pledged, then stocked the rice and re-pledged it again to itself.
Surely those accountable would be brought to court, why than use it to blame just one person?
Something different. Riceberry? That's the name given to (mostly organic) dark rice. Thailand rice exporters:
'Rice Berry is a cross-bred unmilled rice possessing dark violet grain, which is a combination of Hom Nin Rice, with well-known antioxidant properties, and Thai Hom Mali Rice, also known as Thai Jasmine/ Fragrant Rice or KhaoDawk Mali 105. Rice Berry contains three times more iron than other varieties. And not only does it contain a high level of antioxidants such as beta-carotene, gamma oryzanol, vitamin E and folic acid (folate) in itself, it also becomes soft and is aromatic when itโ€s cooked, which is the outstanding trait of Thai Hom Mali Rice'.
'Hot on the heels of the TPP, it is clear that RCEP will restrict seed saving and seed exchange at a time when, under the extreme pressures of climate change, farmers need more diversity in their fields, not less. Furthermore, it could increase their dependence on external inputs and raise their costs of production. Opponents of RCEP say that the trade deal could triple the current price for seeds.[iii] Trade agreements like RCEP should not give corporations monopoly rights over seeds, prevent farmers from saving seeds or promote GMOs—but that is what they do. These agreements are inherently biased towards the interests of corporate and political elites'.
'Despite the current stability in the rice market, there are reasons for concern about the direction of the market in the medium term (mid- to late 2016). The rice stocks of five major exporters (India, Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan, and the United States) continue to slide since reaching a peak of nearly 41 million tons in 2013 (Fig. 1). According to USDA data, the biggest drawdown of stocks in these countries is underway this year, with a 40% drop from last year, to reach 19 million tons by late 2016'.
'With limited Thai rice stocks in the warehouse, it remains to be seen how major exporting and importing countries react to such uncertainty [causes of climate change and/or El Niño]'.
'New figures show that Cambodia’s sugar exports to the European Union fell by 94.8 per cent between 2013 and 2015, amid accusations of rights abuses and land grabbing in the Kingdom’s industry....Meanwhile, Am Sokha, case coordinator at the Community Legal Education Centre, which is also a member of the NGO coalition, said the trade decline sent a clear message to the Cambodian industry to clean up its act'.
The Bangkok Post (Feb. 29) on rubber:
'Thailand is seeking to boost sales after prices tumbled to an almost seven year low in January as slowing economic growth in China weakened demand from the biggest consumer. Along with Indonesia and Malaysia, Thailand agreed this month to cut shipments of natural rubber. Thailand has also agreed to buy rubber from growers at above-market prices'.
'Rubber producers said yesterday the government’s decision to amend the export tax scheme on natural rubber fell short of expectations and would do little to stem the losses of farmers as rubber prices hover near a six-year low'.
'Cambodia's rubber industry’s woes have begun to crystallise after two major rubber plantations announced deep losses yesterday, attributing their downturn to high production costs and a drop in global rubber prices'.
'The tonnage of Cambodia’s agricultural exports increased by over 20 per cent last year, led by a surge in shipments of dried cassava chips, according to the latest Ministry of Agriculture data.Total exports of 66 raw and semi-processed agricultural products – chiefly cassava, rice and rubber – amounted to 4.1 million tonnes in 2015, compared to 48 products with a total of 3.4 million tonnes a year earlier, the ministry said in its annual report on agricultural production....Hun Ly Heu, director of cassava-exporting firm Drycorpkh Cambodia Co Ltd, said the fact that more farmers were selling their cassava despite falling prices was a sign of their desperation.“Our market depends on orders from neighbouring countries and farmers could not wait for cassava prices to rebound due to their loan commitments,” he said, calling for the government to support farmers by setting a price floor on agricultural products'.
'“The Chinese are renting 1,600 square metres of land for the equivalent of between $300 to $600 per year, which is roughly what the farmers would earn from this area if they cultivate the land. So they get the same amount but don’t have to work,” says Sompavong.However, such deals always have their negative sides. For instance, the concession contracts usually do not specify that the investor has to clean up the land – often rice paddies – and return it to its previous condition after the contract ends'.
'Then, at the end of September, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests warned four Chinese companies for “excessive use of pesticides” and ordered inspections on the types and amounts of chemicals used at some of the banana plantations. The revocation of business licences was threatened if laws continued to be contravened'.
Now with rubber prices hardly worth tapping the trees, banana's are seen as the way forward. But at the same unfair economical advantages such as buyers monopolizing the crop (as the crop can only get imported to China) local government collusion, etc.
A good starter on what's wrong in the north of Laos needs heed and read the recent study Falling Rubber Prices in Northern Laos: Local Responses and Policy Options.