Especially when it comes to negatives in the trading practices itself. Where it usually takes just a bleep to post, it took 4 days to mention that the government is concerned about rice trading practices.
And what was said?
Phnom Penh Post (May 4) mentions price fixing of agricultural produce:
'The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry said yesterday that they were investigating a possible secret agreement between middlemen or traders in the supply chain to manipulate the price of agriculture commodities, leaving farmers with no option but to sell their products at a lower price'.Reactions to this article suggest that government may also be part of the problem.
Response was swift, as the PM was reported (Phnom Penh Post, May 5) calling for government officials to stop meddling with trade deals at the expense of farmers:
'Prime Minister Hun Sen urged provincial governors yesterday to stop government officials from colluding with traders to fix agricultural commodity prices, giving farmers no choice but to sell their products at below-market rates'.
'The executive committee of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) will meet with two ministries today to explore the possibility of reducing the logistical and energy costs of transporting rice, a key factor to keeping Cambodian rice exports competitive compared to neighbouring countries, a CRF official said.
The meeting is being held with the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the Ministry of Mines and Energy, said Kim Savuth, head of the CRF’s cost competitiveness executive committee. Savuth added that high energy and logistics costs were some of the main reasons why Cambodian rice remained more expensive than that of its neighbours'.
'He said that for every Bt1 the Thai currency weakens against the US dollar, the price of Thai rice drops by about $10 per tonne.Vietnam's decision to devalue its currency also cuts the price of its rice by about $3 a tonne'.
Bangkok Post (May 8) adds that Thailand regaining it's position as the world's biggest exporter may be on the back burner for the time being:
'Thailand is unlikely to regain its crown as the world's largest rice exporter this year due to the slower-than-expected global economic recovery and a dearth of positive factors'.
Trade talks between Cambodia and China with Cambodia hoping to increase access to China for it's rice (Phnom Penh Post, May 22);
It doesn't seem to be China's interest. Phnom Penh Post (Apr. 13):'“It is expected that there will be detailed discussion of Cambodia’s request to double the rice quota to China to 200,000 tonnes,” [Ministry of Commerce spokesman Ken Ratha] said, adding, however, that no agreement or memorandum of understanding is expected to be signed.
'China will increase its agricultural imports from Cambodia to include bananas, mango and soybeans, having already signed a food safety and health protocol for the import of corn last year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries....Srey Chanthy, independent economic analyst, said increased demand from the Chinese market coupled with sound agricultural policies can help address issues like lack of sustainable supply and low productivity among Cambodia’s farmers.“It is an issue in the short term. But in the medium and long terms, if no proper strategies are in place, I am afraid that the issue is not only about higher volumes for export, but low productivity, seasonality and regularity of supply, lack of irrigation and efficient water use and management,” he said.
“For the growing season, it may not be problematic. But the problem is how to supply these products and export to China on regular basis throughout the year, with the amounts it demands. Issues are not related to only lack of irrigation and farming techniques, but also lack of farm labor,” he added'.
'Hundreds of trucks fully loaded with rice have stayed motionless in areas around different such ‘secondary’ border gates in the northern Vietnamese province of Lao Cai in the last ten days.
According to the Ban Quan border guard unit in Lao Cai’s Bao Thang District, Chinese buyers have stopped importing rice from Vietnam in the last two weeks because their authorities have tightened checks along the border'.
Organic rice is reaching more markets. Phnom Penh Post (May 20):'Rice exports to China across the border have been stagnant since the second half of April as China unexpectedly barred rice imports from Vietnam....Professor Vo Tong Xuan, who is considered the leading Vietnamese rice expert, noted that despite great advantages, Vietnam still has difficulties in exporting rice to China.
According to Xuan, the majority of rice has been exported across the border by Vietnamese exporters even though they know cross-border exports cannot bring high profit. This is because they do not have to fill out many kinds of documents and do not have to pay tax'.
If Japan signs a new trade deal with the US, Thai rice exports to Japan will suffer (Bangkok Post, April 15):'Local rice exporter Amru Rice is close to signing an agreement with an American importer to bring Cambodian organic rice to the American market, according to the rice exporter’s chief executive'.
'"As Japan wants its rice to be excluded from the tariff-elimination goal of the TPP, the government must come up with an alternative measure to improve foreign access to the Japanese rice market," said Mr Honma, who advised Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his first term'.So if I understand correctly, if you want to protect your own market you'll need to give away concessions which mean that signee the USA would have preferred access at the cost of Thai rice?
'Dressed in Chelsea football shorts and a wide-brimmed hat, Than Tun toils away in his paddy field on the outskirts of Yangon, sweat pouring down his sinewy arms.Gruelling work that once helped Myanmar become the world's largest rice exporter is today a Herculean and often lonely job for farmers striving to return the impoverished nation to its former grain prowess....But rotting stocks, creaking infrastructure, heavily indebted farmers and minimal foreign investment are among the hurdles it faces....Rice is a good poverty alleviation tool, he [Sergiy Zorya, a Bangkok-based expert on rice production at the World Bank] explains, because money actually filters down to poor farmers rather than resting in the hands of corporations or middlemen.He points to Cambodia, which has heavily invested in improving rice production and exports. Over the past 10 year,s each one percent increase in GDP has resulted in reducing the country's poverty rate by 5.2%'.
Despite recent warnings on it's links to cancer (source), the article gives the yea sayers all the space in the articles conclusion:
'Lor Rasmey, spokesman for the ministry, also said yesterday he believed the herbicide to be of only minimal danger, explaining, “In France, they still use it.”The argument mirrors that commonly used in the US, where as recently as 2010, glyphosate was referred to as a “miracle chemical for farmers”, according to the New York Times.This language was also parroted in a bulletin for Cambodian farmers distributed by USAID in 2011, which states the “very low toxicity” of glyphosate and recommends it as an effective farming tool.When asked if the agency would reconsider its endorsement, a spokesman yesterday referred to comments made by Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the situation in Colombia, who told El Tiempo: “I can tell you that glyphosate is used in all states of my country, and believe me, we’d have taken action if there was something wrong.”
Development watch'The agriculture sector, one of Cambodia’s key growth drivers, remains the biggest worry for the World Bank, as a slowdown in the sector will have a ripple effect on poverty alleviation efforts.“The agricultural sector has decelerated. This is the driver [of the economy] that has slowed the most and the reason is low yield and low rice prices,” said Enrique Aldaz-Carroll, senior country economist at the World Bank'.
'Asia's largest sugar producer, Thailand’s Mitr Phol Sugar Corporation, has withdrawn from its three plantations in Oddar Meanchey province following years of criticism over alleged illegalities and human rights abuses at the concessions, a development watchdog has said.The announcement itself was not confirmed, and oddly two days later it was in the press that the EU and Mitr Pohl were making"good progress” towards finalising an agreement with the government over compensation claims made by thousands of villagers from Oddar Meanchey province who were evicted from their homes by Thai sugar giant Mitr Phol'.
'From January to May this year, more than 1,100 tonnes of longan were exported to China, up 63 per cent from the 676 tonnes last year, according to Sreng Sreang, deputy director of the Pailin Longan Farmers’ Community.“There has been increasing demand for Pailin longan in the Chinese market, Chinese buyers tell me. They buy longan from us and do the packaging in Thailand before sending them to China,” he said.Pailin longan is harvested from December to May. One kilogram of longan costs around 5,000 riel, or $1.25, almost a two-fold increase from three years ago when the price stood at $0.70'.
Where rice growing nations are having problems with raising prices, tactics to raise rubber prices seem to be having more effect. The Bangkok Post (May 29) notes:'As of February, Reththy’s company had 16,000 hectares of palm oil trees, 8,000 of which were ready for harvesting, with plans to extend the farm to 30,000 in the future.Last year, the company exported 22,000 tonnes of crude palm oil, up from 19,000 tonnes in 2013. But price falls had significantly cut into the firms revenue'.
'Rubber prices jumped the most in nine months as shrinking stockpiles in China and steps by the biggest producers to curb supplies bolstered speculation a global glut will dissipate.
The commodity surged 5.5% on the Shanghai Futures Exchange, the daily limit and the biggest gain since July for a most-active contract, to close at 14,195 yuan (US$2,288) a tonne. Prices are up 13% this month, the most since September 2012'.For the farmers sake let's hope the prices are gains in reality, but I suspect that this is just a minor hiccup: there's simply too much rubber waiting to be harvested, current prices are simply dissuading collection as they're not covering the costs of harvesting. Any sustained price movement upwards will see collection kick in again, cushioning any gain.
On the other hand, rubber prices going up are not all good news. The rubber bubble has exploded sometime ago (2 years?) and only now does the Thai government see fit to take action on protected forests being encroached on by rubber farmers (Bangkok Post, April 21) as they hausse for planting rubber seemed to indiscriminately target existing forests:
'With the blessing of the National Council for Peace and Order [read military junta], the Royal Forest Department intends over the next two years to seize back one million rai [50,000 ha] of former forest that has been encroached on, cleared and planted in rubber.
This one million rai is just one-quarter of the area of what was once forest reserve land that has been illegally taken over and planted in rubber trees'.So much for the protection of forests ...