Rice plant helps grow Sino-Cambodian ties

Updated: 2012-11-19 01:18

By Cheng Guangjin (China Daily)

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The rice-processing industry is bringing South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region and Cambodia even closer, as it becomes a new growth point for bilateral cooperation with the Southeast Asian nation aiming to increase its rice exports.

A rice milling plant in Kampong Chhnang Province of central Cambodia, 50 km to Phnom Penh Port, began operation in late July.

The plant, designed for an annual output of 30,000 tons of white rice, is funded by China's Guangxi Guohong Development Cooperation.

Equipment is provided by the Chinese side, but workers are hired locally.

The first batch of 50 tons of rice produced at the plant sold out after being displayed at the ninth China-ASEAN Expo held in Nanjing, capital of Guangxi, in September, said Jia Lei, vice-president of the company.

"The plant will help increase Cambodia's rice export and foreign exchange earnings, increase local employment, and improve their business operations," Jia said.

In 2010, Cambodia developed a goal to have annual rice exports hit 1 million tons within five years, have more foreign investment as well as government-backed soft loans to improve rice productivity and boost its fledging rice milling sector.

The country expects to export around 300,000 tons of milled rice to China per year, according to Cambodian newspaper Phnom Penh Post.

In August, Chinese Minister of Commerce Chen Deming expressed the intention of promoting investment from China into rice processing and garment manufacturing in Cambodia during a meeting with his Cambodian counterpart Cham Prasidh, the newspaper said.

Located close to Southeast Asia, Guangxi has become an important area for ASEAN members to forge ties.

It has hosted the China-ASEAN Expo since 2004, which serves as a platform for regional economic and trade cooperation and provides tremendous opportunities for business communities from all over the world.

"Many Guangxi companies and individual businessmen have had their eyes opened by the expo and go out to look for opportunities in ASEAN countries," Jia said.

In March 2009, Ma Biao, governor of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce, in which the rice milling plant funded by Guohong is among the major economic cooperation projects between the two countries.

"Cambodia has vast land resources, but lacks technology, capital and efficient management, which leaves room for Chinese companies that can provide skills, business management and money," Jia said.

According to Jia, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has told the company leaders the plant is expected to promote economic cooperation between Guangxi and Cambodia.

Guangxi's close ties with Cambodia makes it feel like "home" to the country's people, Cambodian Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said.

Hun Sen himself has visited Guangxi and has led the Cambodian delegation to attend the China-ASEAN Expo several times since 2004.

Cambodia has set up a consulate general in the commercial district of Nanjing, the capital of Guangxi.

Guangxi and Prey Veng Province of Southern Cambodia have been "sister provinces" since 2007.

Contact the writer at chengguangjin@chinadaily.com.cn