Written by Zhao Yali / Translated by Xie Zongming
“People see food as their primary need, and rice is among the most important grains.” Cambodian rice is not to be missed when talking about the best rice in Southeast Asia. The Cambodian Jasmine Rice can be seen in many supermarkets in Guangxi and becomes one of the most popular kinds of rice in China. The Mekong River region, Tonlé Sap Lake region, and Hau River region are the main rice-producing regions in Cambodia. From faraway Cambodia to the dining tables in China, Cambodian rice and the China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) took a long journey to meet each other.
Known to more through CAEPXO
Aside from the promotion by the CAEXPO, in Cambodian rice’s entry into the Chinese market, one man is worth mentioning, that is Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia.
In 2007 when Hun Sen attended the 4th CAEXPO, he expressed his hope to introduce Cambodian rice to the Chinese market, with the expectation to eat the Cambodian Jasmine Rice in Nanning during his next visit. In 2008, Cambodia became the Country of Honor of the 5th CAEXPO for the first time, and Cambodian rice first appeared in the Chinese market, fulfilling Hun Sen’s wish. Cambodian rice has become one of the most popular products in the CAEXPO ever since.
At the Cambodia Hall of the 18th CAEXPO held in 2021, the “Siem Reap Cambodian Jasmine Rice” stood out among other exhibits, attracting many visitors. “The Siem Reap rice is our best-selling product, being famous for its tender and refreshingly-sweat taste. The rice has been in the CAEXPO for 12 consecutive years and has been welcomed by the market,” said Guo Dongliang, Executive Chairman of Guohong (Cambodia) Industry Co., Ltd.
Even the best product needs advertising. Since 2010, Guohong has participated in every year’s CAEXPO, with which the company can explore the domestic market. Guo Dongliang said , “ The CAEXPO is a good platform. You can see more and more consumers get to know and accept the Cambodian Jasmine Rice in the past few years.” With the CAEXPO, the sale of Jasmine Rice has increased year by year, notably from 20 million yuan at its first appearance in the CAEXPO to over 100 million yuan by 2021. The public awareness and praise of the brand are also rising. From 2016 to 2021, the Siem Reap Cambodian Jasmine Rice has been the designated product of the CAEXPO for six consecutive years.
With CAEXPO ’s promotion , Cambodian rice has been sold to nine provinces in China. The rice is placed on the shelves of the grocery stores in those provinces as well as the online stores of multiple shopping websites, maintaining high sales.
Firmly being the largest buyer
With the potential of the Chinese market unleashed, the demand for Cambodian rice maintains at a high level. In recent years, the cooperation between Cambodia and China keeps enhancing under the promotion by the two governments, resulting in new records for Cambodian rice imports.
In 2021, Cambodia’s rice export was 617,000 tons, with a 10.68% decrease. However, according to the inspection statistics by the China Certification & Inspection Group (Cambodia) Co., Ltd., China remains the biggest export destination of Cambodian rice as it imported 306,000 tons of rice from Cambodia, marking a 7% annual increase. Moreover, in November 2021, China and Cambodia signed a memorandum of understanding on China purchasing 400,000 tons of Cambodian rice, which started from December 2021 and last for 17 months.
In the first five months of 2022, Cambodia has exported more than 280,000 tons of rice, 150,000 tons of which were exported to China. China remains the largest purchaser so far. According to the official of the Ministry of Commerce of Cambodia, despite Cambodian rice currently being higher in price and transportation cost, China shows high enthusiasm to increase the import of Cambodia rice due to its high quality.
The leap from 5,000 tons at the first entry in 2012 to over 300,000 tons in 2021 shows Cambodia’s great progress in rice production and processing under the strong support of China.
One thing worth mentioning is that China is the first country to sign a bilateral FTA with Cambodia. With the China-Cambodia FTA and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) entered into force on January 1, 2022, RCEP countries that ratified the agreement will gradually eliminate the tariffs on 90% of the goods. Enterprises in the region can enjoy lower tariffs through RCEP, which provides better market access for Cambodian rice, bringing more investment and advanced technology to Cambodia in the area of rice processing, etc. It is good news for the agricultural sector that both the import of agricultural supplies and the export of agricultural products can enjoy lower and even zero tariffs.
CAEXPO being a bridge for cooperation between enterprises
“We hope the 19th CAEXPO can be a platform that provides more regional economic and trade cooperation for the enterprises,” said the Vice General Manager of Guangxi Guohong Development Corporation (Guohong Group). As Guangxi’s landmark project for the investment and cooperation of the Cambodian agricultural products processing industry, Guohong Group signed a memorandum of economic and trade cooperation with Cambodia through the CAEXPO. In the same year, the Group started a project of building a rice processing factory in Cambodia.
At the 18th CAEXPO, Guohong Group and the enterprises from other parts of China like Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, and Chongqing signed letters of intent that amount to 4 million yuan, where the CAEXPO played as the bridge between the enterprises.
It is also the CAEXPO that brought Cambodian rice to people’s attention and let it becomes one of the most-favored rice kinds. China has become the largest importer of Cambodian rice over the EU. Aside from rice, other quality agricultural products are also the top sellers at the CAEXPO. According to Chen Licheng, Director of the Business Liaison Office of Cambodia in Nanning, the annual output of Cambodian mangoes is about 1.5 million tons. The mangoes were first exported to China in 2021. More quality agricultural products will enter China through platforms like the CAEXPO and Online CAEXPO, enriching the Chinese market.
An official of the Guangxi Chamber of International Commerce said that on the production end, the Chamber will promote cooperation with the Cambodian side, such as the Cambodian Association of Mangoes and Hun Ty Group, to facilitate the construction of the National Agriculture Industrial Park of Cambodia and to ensure the supply of goods in Cambodia. Other than mangoes, the import of other agricultural products like bananas will increase to expand the categories of imported products. The Chamber also wants to unite the channels of the Online CAEXPO to innovate agricultural product distribution, aiming to form a “faster, fresher, and cheaper” China-Cambodia cross-border agricultural product supply chain that links up production, logistics, and sale channels.
Talking of participating in the CAEXPO these years, Guo Dongliang described his experience with several “upgrades”. “From our point of views, our product quality has upgraded; our packaging has upgraded; the company’s booth has also upgraded. The brand image is better now. Regarding the industry, those who attended the CAEXPO were mostly SMEs. Now, many high-end enterprises in the rice industry chain also participate in the exhibition, so the quality of the exhibitors has also upgraded,” said Guo, who wishes to carry on the company’s business with the help of the CAEXPO, letting more quality Cambodian rice to be served on the dining tables of Chinese people.