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Demand drives expansion of rice exports to US

Vendors sell milled rice in Srah Chak commune of the capital’s Daun Penh district.  Heng Chivoan

With a large number of Asian populations residing in the US, including Cambodians, the Kingdom’s milled rice exporters are keen to tap into the substantial potential demand for aromatic rice in the world’s largest economy.

Amru Rice (Cambodia), the Kingdom’s leading rice miller and exporter, dispatched several tonnes of premium jasmine rice on January 20 to be stocked at locations in Long Beach, in the US state of California.

Song Saran, chair and CEO of Amru Rice (Cambodia), told The Post that the company had shipped an initial consignment of 40 tonnes, equivalent to two containers, to supply all Shun Fat Supermarkets in the city, where Cambodians are concentrated. 

He highlighted the supermarket as one of the largest Asian markets in the area and noted the considerable demand for premium fragrant rice.

“We have just shipped a modest quantity of our premium fragrant rice to all Shun Fat Supermarkets … to cater to our Cambodian community, as well as Asians and [others] living there, so they can experience the quality of our premium rice. According to the information I have, all our rice at the supermarket has already sold out. This is a very encouraging sign,” he said.

“I plan to dispatch another four to five containers in the coming months to meet the high demand there,” he added.

Export volume low, huge potential

Lay Chhun Hour, CEO of City Rice Import Export Co Ltd, emphasised the massive potential of the US as a market for Cambodia’s fragrant rice, especially given the high volume of exports from neighbouring countries like Thailand.

“From my observations, the US represents a vast market with a large population of Cambodian and Asian communities. This fact underscores the greater market potential for our milled rice there. However, the market demand primarily focuses on fragrant rice,” he said.

According to Chhun Hour, the company exports approximately 20 to 30 containers annually to the US, a figure that could increase as Cambodia has not yet extensively promoted its products in the market. 

“Actually, we need to engage in more trade activities to promote our milled rice to consumers and we hope that other exporters will collaborate in this endeavour,” he added. 

CRF’s vision for expanding exports

Chan Sokeang, president of the Cambodian Rice Federation (CRF) – the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body – acknowledged that while Cambodia has previously shipped luxury rice to the US, the exports were in small quantities and have not yet expanded into larger markets.

He noted that the company has recently begun exporting to a substantial Asian market in California, with the assistance of the consulate general and chamber of commerce representatives in the region to facilitate the export process.

“It’s a matter of national pride for our rice sector that we are expanding exports to the US. I would like to highlight that the US market is substantial for fragrant rice, importing approximately 600,000 tonnes of it from Thailand annually. Therefore, the US represents a potential market for us,” Sokheang said.

“As a new market for Cambodia, it necessitates increasingly extensive marketing and promotional activities. Moreover, it’s essential for us to understand the actual needs and the legal terms of imports in the region,” he stressed.

“For the rice federation, we are extremely proud of the results of our efforts in the US market thus far and we are hopeful that more exporters will join to increase exports to the market,” he added.

Saran, also noting the high demand for premium fragrant rice, said he plans to increase Amru’s supply to capture a larger market share. 

“There is a very high demand in the US as they want us to export thousands of tonnes of [our] premium fragrant rice. However, we currently don’t have enough supply to meet the demand,” he said, indicating his intention to boost supply in the coming years.

According to data from the CRF, 656,323 tonnes of milled rice were exported to international markets in 2023, a 3% increase compared to 2022. The exports generated $466 million in revenue, marking a 13% rise from the previous year. 

Cambodian milled rice reached 61 countries and territories via 63 exporters: China and its Hong Kong Autonomous Region received 212,756 tonnes, valued at $138 million; in Europe, across 26 countries, exports amounted to 264,683 tonnes, equivalent to $191 million; seven ASEAN member countries received 93,376 tonnes, valued at $62 million; and exports to 26 Middle Eastern countries totalled 85,508 tonnes, worth $76 million, as per CRF data.

https://www.phnompenhpost.com/post-in-depth/demand-drives-expansion-of-rice-exports-to-us QR Code

Published Date: January 31, 2024

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