The export of agricultural products in Cambodia has been hit by disturbances in logistics networks globally, especially the low availability of containers for shipments.
The Cambodia Rice Federation said a container shortage, a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, was affecting their exports, despite high demand for Cambodia’s agriproducts. Rice is one of Cambodia’s most critical export products, along with garments and footwear.
Lun Yeng, the CRF’s secretary-general, said the challenges are due to the reduction of transportation facilities globally.
“We have enough rice to export. We have prepared 100,000 tons of rice to export to China, but it is stuck due to the shortage of containers for storage and costs have also increased,” he said.
He expressed optimism that Cambodia’s rice exports would continue to grow the rest of the year because of high demand in the global market.
“We have yet to evaluate if the COVID-19 will affect our 1 million ton [export] target for 2022. We need to see the real situation as the huge amount of rice export is made during the harvest season,” he said.
According to the CRF, Cambodia exported $64.5 million, or around 76,200 tons, of rice in the first two months of 2021, marking a 44 percent drop compared to the same period last year.
China is still the largest market for Cambodia’s rice exports, with 49.3 percent of rice exports, followed by the EU with around 25 percent.
Sin Chanthy, president of the Cambodia Logistics Association, members in the logistics sector had seen a 40 percent decline in revenues for the last year. While most countries were locked down, transportation activities reduced and containers were stuck in some countries, especially the EU and the United States.
“For garment and textile exports, we use 40-feet containers, which is not the issue. But, for rice export, we need 20-feet containers, which are lacking,” he said.
Cambodia exported more than 690,000 tons of rice in 2020, up 11.4 percent compared with 2019, according to the data from the Ministry of Agriculture.
The other main agricultural products include cassava, cashew nut, yellow bananas and rubber.
Hun Lak, the director of Longmate Agriculture Co Ltd, said his firm had to reduce their exports because of the shortage of containers and a 20 percent increase in export fees.
Longmate Agriculture has 1,000 hectares of banana plantations in Kampot province, and export the produce to China.
“Before, we exported every day but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has shifted to exporting once a week to save transportation costs,” he said.
Suy Kokthean, business manager of Kampong Thom province-based Cashew Association of Cambodia, said farmers were reliant on exports to Vietnam by land, so they were not affected by shipping disruptions.
But, having a single did not help farmers get better prices. He said farmers were getting $1.25 per kilogram.
“If we didn’t have COVID-19, the price would be more than [$1.5] because we will have buyers from India and Japan who would have already contacted us for purchasing cashews,” he said. “But, COVID-19 has blocked them from coming to Cambodia,” he said.
Kokthean said more than 3,000 families nationwide were registered with the association, accounting for around 500,000 hectares of cashew crop.