Cambodia is once again turning to China for an early implementation of a new rice purchase pact and a loan agreement amid falling prices, a senior government official from the Southeast Asian state said Monday.
Agriculture continues to be an engine of economic growth in Cambodia, with nearly 80 percent of Cambodians living in rural areas and over 70 percent relying on agriculture, fisheries, and forestry for their livelihoods. Rice is a major part of this, with Cambodia being one of the world’s leading exporters.
Yet with rice prices plunging from around $250 per ton in August to around $193, the Southeast Asian state has been frantically trying to grapple with a crisis for the industry.
Earlier this month Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang reached an agreement on the sidelines of the latest round of ASEAN summitry in Laos for Beijing to double the amount of rice China imports from Cambodia to 200,000 tons annually. Phnom Penh also sought $300 million from China to boost the infrastructure for rice production, including building mills, kilns, and storage warehouses.
Now, the Cambodian government is urging China to consider an early implementation of these agreements to help it contend with the crisis. Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong told China’s new ambassador to Cambodia, Xiong Bo, that the pacts need to be sped up in light of the current situation.
“The Cambodian people are facing a crisis of rice prices which fell rapidly,” he said according to Reuters.
“I asked the Chinese ambassador to report this to the Chinese government to hurry up to buy rice as China had promised to help our farmers.”
In addition to seeking assistance from China, Cambodia has also announced a series of other measures, including a grant for rice millers and even an appeal by Hun Sen for microfinance institutions to be more flexible with late payments given the struggles farmers are now going through. It is also trying to reach agreements with other countries as well.
Cambodia exported 538,396 tons of rice last year according to the Cambodian Rice Federation. That was below its target of one million tons due to various factors including a drought and excess global supply.