Rice farmers in Takeo province have joined together in a milling cooperative to help control fluctuations in the price of rice.
Around 240 farmers invested in a rice mill together three months ago, in hopes of turning paddy into profitable processed rice for local markets.
However, expectations have dimmed in the face of low rice prices and poor quality in the milled rice.
The millers wanted to buy paddy from farmers in four of 16 communes in Tram Kok district and reduce the amount of processed rice imported from Vietnam, said Noeuk Aong, chief of the cooperative, which is based in Trapaing Thom Khang Tbong commune.
“But when the plan failed, we sold paddy rice instead to collect our money back,” he said.
The mill, built on 1,400 square meters, can produce one ton of rice per hour and can stock 800 tons of rice. It cost $50,000, $40,000 of which came from the Center of Agricultural Development of Cambodia, or CDAC, the largest shareholder.
Farmers can own a share of the mill for as little as 10,000 riel, or $2.50.
Some members complained that profits had been less than they expected, though some noted the mill helped stabilize the price of rice, which is usually limited by dealers.
“Without millers, dealers always lower the rice price,” 45-year-old farmer Doung Pov said. “But now rice buyers have started to offer higher prices according to rice limited by the mill.”
Before the community mill opened, Neouk Aong said, more than 10,000 tons of rice were imported annually from Tram Kok district to Vietnam at a low price.
But now the price of rice has increase at least 10 percent, said Lang Seng Horng, director of CDAC’s Enterprise for Social Development.
Farmers in nearby Kampot province are learning the mill model and plan to open a similar community mill by next year.
CDAC then plans to open 30 community mills by 2013, in hopes of eventually producing rice for export markets.
European markets have shown interest in Cambodian rice, but there are problems with quality control, and traditional, disorderly markets, where famers sell paddy rice to Vietnam, remain.