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EU tariffs on Cambodian rice damage 500,000 farmers

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Christian Fernsby ▼ | August 23, 2019
To protect its producers, the EU has imposed tariffs for three years on Cambodian and Myanmar rice.
Cambodian rice farmer
Asia   Cambodian rice farmer
In just six months, exports to Europe have been halved.

Topics: Cambodia rice farmer

For Cambodia, the measure penalises producers of “jasmine and fragrant long grain rice” who “do not compete directly with products grown in the EU”.

China is ready to support Cambodia’s economy and agriculture.

Some 500,000 farming families face serious economic disruption because of tariffs imposed by the European Union (EU) on Cambodian rice, this according to the Cambodian Rice Federation (CRF).

European tariffs and the consequent decline in exports weigh heavily on Cambodian agriculture, already penalised by a severe drought in the first months of the year.

EU-Cambodian economic relations could also be affected by changes to Cambodia’s privileged trading status.

The EU in January imposed tariffs for three years on rice from Cambodia and Myanmar, in order to protect EU producers following a surge in imports from the two Asian countries.

For the first six months of this year, Cambodian rice exports to the EU fell by half compared with the same period last year, to 93,000 tonnes, the CRF reports.

“This has been acutely felt by most of the 500,000 families who eke out a living farming jasmine and fragrant long grain rice, in spite of the fact that these varieties are geographically specific and do not compete directly with products grown in the EU,” the CRF said in a statement.

The EU in February also started an 18-month process that could lead to the suspension of Cambodia’s special Everything but Arms (EBA) access, which gives almost developing 50 countries duty free access for all exports to the EU, except arms.

That process is separate from the rice tariffs and is due to European concerns over Cambodia’s human rights record. The EU takes more than a third of Cambodia’s exports, including garments, footwear and bicycles.

In April, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said that China, his closest ally, would help Cambodia if the EU withdrew the EBA. China had also agreed to import 400,000 tonnes of Cambodian rice, according to a Hun Sen’s posting online.

Meanwhile, according to data from the Secretariat of One Window Service for Rice Export Formality, a joint private-government working group, rice exports to China have already risen 66 per cent in the first half of 2019 to 118,401 tonnes.