Cambodia becomes first rice exporter to lift curbs

May 26, 2008 14:20:00

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia became the first rice exporter on Monday to lift a ban on foreign shipments imposed by some Asian countries in the last six months to protect domestic supplies in the face of soaring international prices.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said the southeast Asian nation, a small exporter compared to neighboring Thailand or Vietnam, clearly had enough rice for its own needs and was also short of its own long-term storage space.

“The ban on the rice exports is being lifted from now on,” he told students in the capital, Phnom Penh. “We still have over one million tons of rice that need to be exported. We don’t have any shortage.”

Rice production in Cambodia is finally getting back on track after decades of civil war and upheaval.

It produced a record 6.4 million tons in its 2007-08 crop year, giving it a 2.6-million ton surplus for export, although Hun Sen imposed a two-month ban on foreign sales on March 27 to safeguard domestic supply.

At the time, he blamed surging overseas demand for a near trebling of domestic rice prices from $0.35 a kilogram in January to $0.92 kg in March.

The ban, which followed similar moves by India at the end of last year and Vietnam, was seen as another indicator of rapidly tightening supplies in Asia, pushing prices to record highs and raising concerns about the continent’s ability to feed itself.

A week ago, state media in communist-run Vietnam, which vies with India for the mantle of the world’s second-largest exporter after Thailand, said the government might lift its export ban in early July.

Hun Sen said Cambodia’s next harvest was looking like a good one.

“It seems we have plenty of rice to come. We need more warehouses to store our rice,” he said.(PDI)

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