The price of rice in Battambang province has dropped by as much as 25 per cent in recent days, pushed down by, among other things, recent flooding and wind that have lowered the grain’s quality, as well as a lack of investment by the private sector.
Battambang provincial governor Nguon Ratanak told The Post on November 23 the fact that farmers had flocked to harvest at a time when rice millers were unable to buy it up in a timely manner also led to the plummeting price.
He said however the price decrease remained at acceptable levels because the Phka Romduol rice variety still cost one million riel ($250) per tonne.
“This price of rice is falling because its quality is not yet up to an acceptable level. After the past floods, some rice leaned into the water and became black. So, we speak about the price falling, and we forget about its quality. Its quality also affects the price.
“After the floods, the wind blows stalks of rice down to the ground. We harvest it late or we harvest it early, its grains are black. We cannot assess it overall,” he said.
Ratanak called on local farmers not to harvest rice at the incorrect time, explaining that when its quality is spoiled the rice must be sold at a lower price. He also called on the private sector to continue to invest in rice in Battambang.
“They have rice mills and rice-drying ovens and they can buy rice from farmers. Currently, they have many rice mills but less rice-drying ovens, so they can’t buy much rice from farmers,” Ratanak said.
Chhim Vichara, the director of the provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, acknowledged the price of rice in the province was falling – from 1,200,000 riel per tonne to between 950,000 riel and 970,000 riel per tonne, depending on the quality.
Battambang has been hit hard by flooding, he said, estimating that the floods and winds had destroyed 30 per cent of the area’s rice stalks.
He said the lack of combine harvesters was also a problem. During the floods, the owners of combine harvesters moved their machines to other provinces, making the harvesting price competitive. Previously, 1ha of rice stalks would cost 280,000 riel to harvest. Now, according to Vichara, the price has reached 350,000 riel to 400,000 riel per hectare, although the authorities have advised combine harvester owners not to increase their prices.
Seun Thouna, a farmer in Thma Koul village, said the price of rice had dropped to more than 800,000 riel per tonne. In previous years, farmers had sold it for more than 1 million riel per tonne.
“No one come to intervene in this problem because farmers have produced many quality yields. If the problem continues, farmers will be forced to spend more on their day-to-day livelihoods. They also have to pay the interest to banks because many farmers had borrowed money from banks to grow crops,” Thouna said.
“What farmers wish now is for relevant authorities to help intervene to make the rice price acceptable. The price should be more than a million riel per tonne,” he said.
Theng Savoeun, the director of the NGO Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community, said if the government does not resolve the problem of falling rice prices, it will have a serious impact on livelihoods of thousands of farming families.
He said some farmers would face the threat of selling their rice paddies to pay the interest they owe to banks. Some others would leave their homes for work in cities or migrate abroad to earn money, he added.
“To solve this problem, the government should release the national budget to buy rice from farmers and stock it so it can be milled and exported to sell abroad,” Savoeun said.
“The government should help stop brokers from lowering the price of rice arbitrarily.”