Rice is by far Cambodia’s most important agricultural product and the sector employs around 2.9 million people. Rice is the major staple food and is cultivated by the large majority of small farmers. It is crucial for human development in terms of food security and poverty reduction, especially for subsistence farmers.
Estimates of rice exports including informal exports suggest that rice is by far the most important agricultural export product in Cambodia. Although most exports involve paddy rice, milled rice is increasingly considered to have important potential for future exports.
World paddy rice production grew by a factor of three in the past 50 years, from about 200 million tons in 1961 to 680 million tons in 2009, and was forecast to reach a record 710 million tons in 2010. Paddy rice production dropped by about 1 percent between 2008 and 2009, mainly due to erratic monsoon rains and the resurgence of El Niño conditions in Asia, but was expected to grow by 4 percent in 2010, again mainly due to changes in Asian countries. India in particular was expected to drive this upturn in the region, followed by the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand (FAO, Rice Market Monitor, April 2010).
The main producer countries in the world are in Asia. By far the largest producers – and consumers – are China (almost 200 million tons in 2008) and India (some 150 million tons). Other important producers are Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand.
With 7.2 million tons of paddy in 2008, Cambodia is the 14th largest producer in the world. Cambodia is the fastest growing among the large rice producers in the world, and is now the 14th largest producer. However, it has to be mentioned that information about Cambodia’s rice production is difficult to obtain and is sometimes crudely estimated.