Bangladeshi rice millers find Cambodian offer lucrative
Kazi Azizul Islam
Bangladeshi analysts and rice millers appreciated Cambodia’s offer to set up milling units in that rice surplus country which could help rice supply to the local market as well as open up business opportunities for local businessmen.
They said that apart from an investment opportunity in Cambodia, it would ensure supply of milled rice to the home country.
The rice millers and experts suggested the government should actively follow up on the Cambodian proposal and establish long-term business and investment relations with that country.
The proposal was forwarded by Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong to his Bangladeshi counterpart Dipu Moni, who ended her two-day Cambodia visit on Monday.
‘We have a surplus in rice although we don’t have the required number of rice mills [to process it]… so we want Bangladesh to invest in setting up rice mills. Because we do not have the rice mills our farmers are forced to sell their rice to Vietnam and Thailand,’ Namhong was quoted to have told Dipu Moni.
Dipu Moni’s visit was designed to arrange import of at least two lakh tonnes of Cambodian rice as the government here is worried at the rising price of rice, the country’s staple food.
‘The Cambodian proposal for setting up rice mills there by Bangladeshi entrepreneurs has huge potentials for Bangladesh,’ said Mahabub Hossain, executive director of BRAC.
Hossain, a respected economist, observed that Bangladeshi private sector millers have attained much expertise to set up units aboard and yield profits.
The government should actively follow up on the Cambodian proposal that augers well for Bangladesh, said Hossain. ‘The government should link Bangladeshi private sector millers with Cambodian stakeholders,’ he added.
He however advised that before local rice millers set up units in Cambodia, there should be an accord that Bangladesh would have privilege in getting supply of rice from that country.
Hossian hoped that Cambodian rice yield might also increase further if Bangladesh shares its successful experience in extension of irrigation.
With eight million tonnes of rice output, Cambodia has nearly four million tonnes of surplus for export.
But, due to poor capacity of milling facilities in Cambodia, they sell more than three-fourth of the unhusked rice stocks to millers and importers from Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia at a relatively low price.
Hafez Belal, a rice miller of Bogra also thought the Cambodian offer was very much worthwhile.
‘Many Bangladeshi rice millers have enough technical and financial expertise to set up plants aboard and bring benefits back to their country,’ Belal said.
He suggested that government should help develop relations between Bangladeshi private sector rice importers and millers with the potential stakeholders in Cambodia.
Despite Bangladesh produces more than 30 million tones of paddy a year, declining arable lands due to growing urbanization and industrialization slowed down the growth of rice production in the country.
Moreover, even partial damage in rice crop by drought, floods and storm forces Bangladesh to import one to three million tonnes of milled rice in the event of such calamity.
Bangladesh for years has been relying on India for rice import procurements but trouble intensified as India for the last two or three years has been restricting export of grains.