EU to impose tariffs on Myanmar, Cambodia rice for 3 years

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will impose tariffs on rice from Cambodia and Myanmar from Friday to curb a surge in imports, the European Commission said on Wednesday.

The decision, which will be in effect for three years, follows a “safeguard” investigation launched last March after a request from the Italian government. Rice is grown in eight southern European countries from Portugal to Bulgaria.

The Commission, which oversees trade policy in the bloc, had proposed the tariff measures last year but failed to a get clear majority of the 28 EU states to back the plan in December.

In the absence of an opinion by the relevant committee, the Commission took the final decision itself on Wednesday.

Cambodia and Myanmar benefit from the EU’s “Everything But Arms” scheme which allows the world’s least developed countries to export most goods to the European Union free of duties. But the Commission said its investigation had confirmed that a significant increase in imports of longer-grained Indica rice from Cambodia and Myanmar had damaged EU producers.

From Jan. 18 it will set a duty of 175 euros ($200) per tonne of rice in the first year, dropping to 150 euros in the second and 125 euros in year three, it said.

Cambodia and Myanmar already face losing their special access to the world’s largest trading bloc over their human rights records, although that potential sanction is separate from the rice safeguard measures.

The Commission said it had found that imports of Indica rice from the two countries had risen by 89 percent in the past five rice-growing seasons, and that a surge in cheap imports had reduced EU producers’ market share in Europe to 29 from 61 percent.

EU farming group Copa-Cogeca said it welcomed the Commission’s decision on Wednesday, saying it had recognized a critical situation in a sector that is vital for preventing an exodus from rural areas. ($1 = 0.8774 euros)

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Susan Fenton