U.S. imports large volume of organic rice

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An unusual report shows that organic rice buyers in the U.S. are getting a large percentage of their rice from Cambodia.

The Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC) exported 114 tonnes of organic jasmine rice to the U.S. in the first quarter of this year, a 30 per cent increase compared with the same period last year, reports the Phnom Penh Post.com.

Is the answer to organic food supply to U.S. consumers importation because U.S. growers are unable to meet the demand for fruits, vegetables, rice and more? In recent years, the food industry noise has been about concern that imported foods could have larger than permitted pesticide residues on or in them. There has been little main-stream media news about demand exceeding U.S. production of organic foods.

"We aim to transform farmers into organic rice farm entrepreneurs or commercial organic fragrant rice producers,” CEDAC president Yang Saing Koma is quoted as saying. “We can generate extra funds for social development through the business with our international partners.”

During the first three months, CEDAC exported 59 tonnes of organic jasmine brown rice and 55 tonnes organic jasmine white rice to the US.

Experts suggest that Cambodia has the potential to become an important organic rice producing country in Southeast Asia. Srey Chanthy, an independent agricultural analyst, told the Post that compared with most Asian countries, Cambodian farmers use relatively few chemicals on their fields.

The consequences of this low pesticide use was not addressed, but without pesticide use, yields can be reduced significantly in some cases. The CEDAC brags about Cambodian farmers applying low levels of commercial fertilizer, which can definitely hurt yield. 

Nevertheless, Chanthy said if Cambodia really wants to develop its organic rice production, it needs to put in place a new institutional framework to ensure quality and grade standards to build trust from international buyers. The Post did not report any mention of verification of organic production for the rice.

“Boosting organic rice exports is easier said than done,” the Post further quoted Chanthy as saying. “We need to be patient and overcome all obstacles because there is so much potential benefit.”

CEDAC has been actively encouraging farmers to adopt organic techniques. By 2022, CEDAC has the goal of up to 100,000 farmers producing more than 400,000 tonnes a year of organic fragrant paddy rice for them to supply domestic and export markets.

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