efe-epaBangkok

The Cambodian government Friday urged the European Union to revise its decision of imposing tariffs on rice from Cambodia and Myanmar because it would force farmers to commit suicide.

The government-aligned Fresh News reported that the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce strongly denounced the decision as a "weapon to kill Cambodian farmers."

The move announced Wednesday ends duty-free export status of rice produced in Cambodia and Myanmar.

The ministry in a statement said the move did not conform to international trade rules nor did it reflect good cooperation between Cambodia and the EU.

"The decision to introduce EU market protections on Indica Rice originating from Cambodia has the effect of depriving Cambodian farmers' income and forcing them to commit suicide," the statement said.

The European Commission's announcement of imposing an initial tax of 175 euros per tonne of rice comes after an investigation revealed that the rise in imports from the two Asian countries was damaging European producers.

Cambodia called on the EU to revise the decision, saying it would study its legality.

The EU decided to reintroduce as of Friday and for three years the tax that will be progressively reduced to 150 euros per tonne in the second year and 125 euros per tonne in the third.

The measure was adopted after a study concluded that in the last five seasons the market share of the bloc's producers fell from 61 percent to 29 percent while that of the two Asian countries - with cheaper rice - increased by 89 percent.

The investigation, started in May 2018, was opened as a result of a petition from the Italian government that was supported by all rice-producing member countries: Spain, France, Portugal, Greece, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

The EU accounted for 43 percent of Cambodia's rice exports by 2018 with about 300,000 tonnes.

Rice exports from Cambodia and Myanmar benefited in the last few years from the Everything but Arms initiative which guarantees duty-free access to the European market for any export except armaments.

In October, Brussels announced the start of the formal process to remove Cambodia from the program and review the continuation of Myanmar in response to the deterioration of human rights situation in both countries.