Cambodia to ban some rice exports April 5 due to coronavirus

A photo taken on March 13, 2020, shows people carrying sacks of rice donated by a Vietnamese woman at Wat Phnom, which is a tourist site and a Buddhist shrine, in Phnom Penh. PHOTO: AFP

PHNOM PENH (REUTERS) - Cambodia will ban some rice exports to ensure local food security during the coronavirus crisis, Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Monday (March 30), the latest country to curb food exports because of the pandemic.

Although Cambodia is not a major rice exporter, exporting only about 500,000 tonnes a year according to government figures, a food industry group on Monday cautioned against other governments' moves that could threaten global food security.

"I have ordered the suspension of white rice and paddy rice exports but allowed the export of fragrant rice until there is a new regulation for domestic supply," Mr Hun Sen said in a speech, adding that the measure would take effect from April 5.

Global food security concerns are mounting with around a fifth of the world's population already under lockdown to fight the widening coronavirus pandemic that has infected over 720,000 people across 200 countries, killing some 33,000.

Prices for rice have risen due to expectations of a further squeeze on exports.

Vietnam, the world's third-largest rice exporter, announced last week it would not accept new contracts.

Top global rice exporter India is amidst a three-week lockdown that has brought several logistics channels to a halt.

Combined global production of rice and wheat - the most widely-traded food crops - is projected to be a record 1.26 billion tonnes this year, according United States Department of Agriculture data.

That should be more than enough to meet global demand, but there are worries that export bans and panic buying could disrupt supply chains and cause shortages in some countries.

The regional group Food Industry Asia on Monday called on governments to refrain from policies that could harm food security.

"Food supply chain disruptions and trade protectionist measures amid Covid-19 pandemic could cause major food shortages across Asia," the group said in a statement.

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