The Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) is seeking partnerships with the Middle East to expand rice exports under the impending Cambodia-United Arab Emirates Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
“We have not exported directly to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but we used to export to Saudi Arabia,” said Song Saran, president of CRF and CEO of Amru Rice (Cambodia) Co Ltd, who presented to investors in Dubai on October 24.
According to CRF data, 6,458 tonnes of rice, or about 1.4 percent of total rice exports, found its way to the Middle East in the first nine months of the year.
China topped the export list of 60 markets with 204,942 tonnes, or 45.6 percent of total exports of 449,325 tonnes, valued at $286.1 million between January and September this year. It was followed by the EU with 162,740 tonnes (36.2 percent), and ASEAN with 40,904 tonnes (9.1 percent).
“Our intention is to explore partnerships and opportunities for the direct export of Cambodian jasmine rice to the UAE,” Saran told Kiripost.
“We would like to see Cambodian jasmine rice being widely available in Arab countries following the free trade agreement (FTA) in a few years.”
In his presentation, in conjunction with a three-day visit led by Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak, Saran shared that Cambodian rice is globally recognised and has won the “World’s Best Rice” award four times, the last being in 2018.
In the first nine months of 2022, Cambodia’s premium fragrant rice represented the largest export variety at 39 percent, while fragrant rice and long grain white rice followed closely behind. National brands – Malys Angkor and SKO – are being created for the signature products in order to gain international brand recognition.
Extolling the benefits of investing in Cambodia, Saran said investors will be exempt from revenue and sales tax on rice and rice by-products, including agriculture machinery and equipment.
Apart from government support, such as free service charge on export formalities and port special fees, investors can take advantage of the surplus of raw material, including unmilled rice, and opportunities to build warehouses owing to a current shortage.
“There is also the duty-free market access to the US and EU and the existing FTAs with China and South Korea, where deals can be explored on the prospects of rice processing and exports,” Saran told UAE investors.
Separately, Sorasak pointed out that the bilateral trade volume between UAE and Cambodia has risen more than 40 percent to about $280 million from January to August, compared to the corresponding period last year.
Mostly in the real estate sector, Cambodia recorded close to $1 million worth of investment in the UAE in 2020, whereas UAE investment was about $2.7 million in the first half of 2020.
Earlier, Sorasak co-chaired the Cambodia-UAE Business Forum in Abu Dhabi, with UAE Foreign Trade Minister Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, in conjunction with talks to begin CEPA negotiations.
The business forum was attended by Cambodian Chamber of Commerce president Kith Meng and members of the private and public sector from both nations.