As its rice production in 2006 hit record high in a decade, Cambodia's dream to build a rice exporters' coalition aimed at sharing more profits and procuring economic power has been fueled.
Cambodia, a traditional agricultural country with rice as its major crop and staple food, harvested more than 6,264,000 tons of rice in 2006, which is about 4 percent up compared with the previous year, a senior government official said on Monday.
"The rice production in 2006 broke the record of Cambodia in a decade," Chan Sarun, minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, told reporters in an annual meeting of ministry.
The rice production increased because of good weather and irrigation system, he said, adding that Cambodian farmers understood better about farming and chose correct seeds for planting.
Meanwhile, market also responded positively in 2006 as rice price jumped to a range between 120 U.S. dollars and 135 U.S. dollars per ton, while seeds of top-quality fragrant rice were sold at 180 U.S. dollars per ton, according to statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of Cambodia.
However, Pu Kea, chairman of the Rice Hulling Mills' Association in Battambang province, said that huge profits went to the exporters from Malaysia, Singapore and African countries, while the farmers and the mill owners could only make limited incomes from simple processing procedures.
Pu Kea found echo with Prime Minister Hun Sen, in his perception of the kingdom's awkward situation of giving profits to foreigners instead of its own planters and processors.
Back to Dec. 20, 2006, as part of his efforts to turn the table, Hun Sen called on Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam to join hands with Cambodia to form an association of rice exporting countries to stabilize rice price and share more profits from rice sales.
An association of the rice exporting countries along the Mekong River could be important for the world market, he said, adding that the association was somewhat like the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
The association could have say in rice price adjustment and play a role in balancing OPEC's influence, he said.
"If they want cheaper rice, then they should decrease oil prices," he added.
Annual rice exports in the region of the Mekong River stand at over 10 million tons, almost half of the world's annual rice exports.