PHNOM PENH, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Cambodia said on Thursday European Union tariffs on its rice had hurt half a million farmers with a sharp decline of exports to the bloc, as it reviews the Southeast Asian nation’s duty-free trading access over human rights concerns.
The EU in January imposed tariffs for three years on rice from Cambodia and Myanmar, aiming to protect EU producers such as Italy following a surge in imports from the two Asian countries.
For the first six months after duties were imposed on Cambodian rice, exports to the EU fell by half compared with the same period last year, to 93,000 tonnes, according to the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF).
“This has been acutely felt by most of the 500,000 families who eke out a living farming jasmine and fragrant long grain rice, in spite of the fact that these varieties are geographically specific and do not compete directly with products grown in the EU,” the CRF said in statement.
The EU in February also started an 18-month process that could lead to the suspension of Cambodia’s special Everything But Arms (EBA) access, which allows for duty free access for all exports to the EU, except arms, over it human rights record.
That process is separate from the rice tariffs.
The block takes more than a third of Cambodia’s exports, including garments, footwear and bicycles.
In April, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said China, his closet ally, would help Cambodia if the EU withdrew the EBA. China had also agreed to import 400,000 tonnes of Cambodian rice, according to a posting on Hun Sen’s Facebook page. (Reporting by Prak Chan Thul Editing by Robert Birsel)