Cambodia says rice cartel would ensure global food security

PHNOM PENH, May 5, 2008 (AFP) – Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday that a proposed OPEC-style rice cartel in Southeast Asia would ensure global food security, rejecting concerns that it would increase hunger and poverty.

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said last week that his country had agreed in principle to form a rice price-fixing cartel with Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia as costs of the staple grain skyrocket.

The grouping of nations along the Mekong river would be similar to the oil cartel OPEC, and would be called the Organisation of Rice Exporting Countries (OREC).

Hun Sen said during a university graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh that the cartel would not try to manipulate markets, but would seek to ensure global food security.

“We will not only ensure food security in each of our own countries, but will help solve the entire problem of (food) shortages across the region and the world,” Hun Sen said.

“When there are shortages, we will not stockpile the rice or increase prices,” the premier said.

“We really want to help ensure food security,” he added.

The Asian Development Bank has come out against the planned cartel, while senior Philippine officials have blasted t