Thirteen provinces across the country have finished harvesting their dry season rice and yields have increased on last year’s crop, but local millers and exporters are concerned about the bulk of the crop making its way to a neighboring country. While local rice millers and exporters are concerned about the flow of rice to a neighboring country, a bigger cern for them is the lack of clarity in the government’s plans to solve the issues facing the rice sector – loans to farmers and millers and other important issues. A total of 13 provinces have finished harvesting rice – Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kampong Cham, Kampong Speu, Kratie, Siem Reap, Preah Vihear, Stung Treng, Svay Rieng, Oddor Meanchey, Kep, Kampot and Pailin – and the amount of rice harvested in the dry season has increased to 72,126 tons, a rise of about 17 percent on last year, according to a report from the Ministry of Agriculture released last week. Song Saran, the president of AMRU Rice, told Khmer Times that climate change, a lack of capital and loans from banks and microfinance institutions to buy rice from farmers for stock and processing were lacking and this has had a serious impact on rice millers and exporters. He said a response from government has been slow and Vietnam had bought rice from farmers in various provinces. “We saw that Vietnam had purchased rice from Cambodia, which for us is a missed opportunity to buy rice in the dry season this year,” Mr. Saran said. “I think the Cambodian Rice Federation (CRF) could not do much at the moment, but we hope they can help before July or August when we start harvesting more rice such as jasmine. We should have a funding package beforehand to purchase rice for processing and export, otherwise we will lose again,” Mr. Saran said. “The lack of a funding package has seriously hurt us and Vietnam has a lot of money and has bought all the rice from Cambodia since March and April last year. We still have rice to buy from farmers, but I think the dry season rice is over and we are waiting for newly harvested rice in August or September, but we hope the funding package arrives on time.” Last week the CRF had a meeting with the Commerce Ministry to seek a solution and will come up with a formula or model to help the rice sector and will submit it to the government. The main point the CRF stressed to the government was the need for a budget of $20 to $30 million to help rice millers and exporters. Deputy Director General of Agriculture Hean Vanhan told Khmer Times that it was good that farmers had somewhere to sell their rice after all their hard work. He added that Cambodia should not worry about the lack of a food supply as the country produces more than four million tons of rice per year. “From my point of view, please stop thinking about banning imports as we try our best to have as many exports as we can to neighboring countries under the free flow of goods in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). We are afraid that our neighboring countries will not accept our rice and export their rice to Cambodia. We should clear up that concern,” Mr. Vanhan said.