'It may be only a matter of time before Cambodia’s rice industry disintegrates, partly as a result of a weak Cambodian Rice Federation and partly because of misguided government policies'.
'The industry’s main players from the private sector must stand up to play a role in improving the industry in the face of a new problem. It has been reported that the Ministry of Agriculture has been testing a strain of low-quality but high-yield hybrid rice for export.
...There are two dangers in the government’s experience through the Ministry of Agriculture. As the industry runs through the testing process, without strict controls –which the government appears incapable of – hybrid pollens are certain to be spread rapidly kilometers away from the test zones, carried by the wind and insects or rodents. Hybrid cultivation would very likely eradicate Cambodia’s high-quality Rumdoul and Sen Kra Ob varieties for good. Destruction of the native species from hybrids is likely.Low-end hybrids recommended by the government would put Cambodia at a disadvantage to Vietnam. Our market positioning should be at the high end. Going along the hybrid route would simply spell disaster and if such news is true, it shows that our Agriculture Ministry policymakers do not fully comprehend the implications of such a policy blunder. Recommending the use of hybrid rice for Cambodia is wrong'.
However that's not going to stop the ambitions of for instance the IRRI. It has now (Apr. 7) got Green Super Rice (GSR) in the pipeline to address the future. The news item has suspicious little on detail. If one clicks on, one would discover that
'GSR varieties are a mix of more than 500 promising rice varieties and hybrids'.Hmmm, there seems no stopping hybrid rice advocates.
'The government has decided to strengthen entry points along Cambodia’s borders to block illegal rice imports, while promising to dissolve any company’s certificate of origin that is caught mixing contraband rice for export, Cambodian Rice Federation (CRF) president Sok Puthyvuth announced following a meeting yesterday with Deputy Prime Minister Kheat Chhon.Additionally, the government will scrap the value added tax (VAT) on imports of rice milling machinery – a move aimed at reducing millers’ high capital costs'.
'The government decided to drop a 10 percent value added-tax (VAT) for rice products during a meeting on Wednesday between representatives of the rice sector and government officials at the Council for the Development of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, officials said....Sam Arth Veasna, vice president of Federation of Cambodian Rice Farmer Organizations for Development, welcomed the government’s decision.“Even though it is not a big offer, I think it would make farmers and rice millers feel better,” he said. “However, I cannot assess how much better.”
'After two promising months, Cambodia’s rice exports fell by 14 per cent year-on-year in March, according to new data by Ministry of Agriculture, sparking fears amongst rice millers that export shipments would further decline without adequate financial backing.....Rice millers said yesterday that the drop was evidence that the industry is struggling with the cost of production, high electricity bills and a lack of finance to purchase and store paddy rice....While last Thursday the government agreed to cut the value added tax (VAT) on imports of rice milling machinery and step up border patrols to crack down on illegal rice imports, there has been no agreement on the facilitation of $250 million in soft loans to proposed by the CRISIS group to ease the financial burden on millers'.
What's wisdom? The Thai government has announced a 60 day rice sell-off blitz? The Bangkok Post (Apr. 26):
'The government plans to sell all 11.4 million tonnes of rice in government stockpiles within two months for 100 billion baht, the country's rice management board, starting next week. The plan announced Monday is unprecedented in Thai export history - selling off more rice in two months than the country usually sells in a year. Average rice sales over the past couple of decades have been about 10 million tonnes.....Traders were sceptical Monday about the government's ability to sell off remaining stocks in just two months. Supachai Vorraapinyaporn, president of Tanasan Rice Group, the third largest rice exporter, said the government's target of offloading the rice within two months was not possible. "This is a million percent impossible, considering that previous auctions were monthly, and only around 400,000 tonnes," said Mr Supachai. "Perhaps they meant two years, not two months," he added'.
'Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) vice-president Hun Lak told Khmer Times yesterday the pledge by the Thai government to release so much milled stock so quickly would push the global price lower and have an indirect impact on Cambodian exports'.
'Commerce permanent secretary Chutima Bunyapraphasara said the area to be cultivated was set by a meeting of the committee planning for integrated rice cultivation.The Agriculture Ministry would announce the target zones for rice growing next week, along with planting dates'.
'The El Nino weather phenomenon has played havoc with crops across Southeast Asia and beyond. Thailand, the world's second-largest sugar exporter, will ship 20% less of the sweetener to international markets this year than last, and farmers fear the damage already inflicted on young cane plants could make next year worse....They are part of a growing number of rural Thais struggling with debt. Most are rice farmers, who were hit hard when the military seized power in 2014 and ended generous subsidies. The irony for some in Ratchaburi is that they have taken a double hit: They were encouraged to convert to sugar from rice as the government sought to cut subsidy reliance and reduce massive rice stocks. As epected prices will rise so not all bad news'.
'Demand for Kampong Speu palm sugar has surged, with orders already up 70 per cent this year, as appetite for the premium organic sugar product grows, boosting its price.Orders for 260 tonnes of the palm sugar have been placed this year, compared with 150 tonnes in all of last year, and despite its market price climbing to $1,400 per tonne, about $50 more than in 2015, Sam Saroeun, president of Kampong Speu Palm Sugar Promotion Association (KSPSPA), said yesterday.
'Many local farmers in Phongsaly province are shifting to plant cardamom after earning lucrative income from growing this crop and selling it to Chinese traders....However most villagers are very concerned about the fluctuation of the cardamom market, particularly when more people move to grow this crop as the prices might go down.A painful lesson has been learned by farmers who grew rubber and falling princes of rubber led farmers in many provinces of Laos to lose profits while some had to resort to destroying their trees to grow other crops instead'.
More positive news this time for rubber growers. The Phnom Penh Post (Apr. 29):'According to a recent report in the Chiang Rai Times , workers at Hongta International, a Chinese-owned banana plantation in Chiang Rai province's Phraya MengRai district, have been tested and found to have unusually high levels of chemicals in their blood.The Chinese firm leased about 440 hectares of land in Phraya MengRai district to grow Cavendish bananas before the PhayaMengRai Hospital was assigned to conduct blood tests on 43 of the plantation's 200 workers.The test results showed the health of 10 of the workers' was at risk, while 13 already had unsafe contamination levels....A survey undertaken by NAFRI [National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute] and unveiled on March 31 noted there were several reasons why Chinese companies wanted to establish banana plantations in Laos. One was the low cost of land leases, the second was low labour costs, and the third was the lax control of chemical use'.
'A sharp rebound in international rubber prices has put workers at plantations in Cambodian back to work, and has infused the sector with a rare sense of optimism.International rubber prices began rising in March from seven-year lows and have seen an upswing of 16 per cent since the start of April on concerns over output and expected pickup in demand from China'.
'Farmers nationwide have threatened to organise protests against the government if it decides Thailand should take part in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement'.