With the government hoping to launch a premium Cambodian rice brand on the world market in the first quarter of 2016, a roundtable discussion in Phnom Penh on Wednesday highlighted the obstacles that remain, notably settling on a name.
At the event, organized by the British Embassy and the Ministry of Commerce, Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol said the best choice for the name of premium Cambodian rice was clear.
“Let’s focus on Phka Rumduol, register that name so no one else can use it,” he said, promoting the name that has also been favored by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Phka Rumduol, or jasmine flower, is the name of Cambodia’s premium jasmine rice variety that has won the title of “World’s Best Rice” each year since it first entered the competition hosted by the World Rice Conference three years ago.
“Thailand also sells jasmine rice. We have won awards as Phka Rumduol, yet we keep saying jasmine, jasmine, jasmine,” Mr. Chanthol said. “We need to do something to make us different to our neighboring countries.”
David Puttnam, British trade envoy to Cambodia and a panel member at the event, suggested that a simpler name might be better, explaining that Cambodia’s international rice brand should be “easy to translate and pronounce.”
“The job here is to make the ‘white gold’ into a fashion item, and how this will help farmers and producers in Cambodia,” he said, noting the success of global consumer items such as Kampot pepper and Italian olive oil.
The discussion also focused on the need to create a certification standard to reassure both producers and consumers of the quality of Cambodia’s premium rice.
“If we have a product out there as a premium, we must ensure we guarantee and safeguard the brand,” said David Van, managing director in Cambodia of Bower Group Asia.
The Cambodia Rice Federation has set its sights on three markets for the premium rice: the U.S., Europe and China. Mr. Chanthol said his ministry was actively seeking more markets.
“We have signed an MoU [memorandum of understanding] with China for 100,000 tons, and Wednesday we signed a MoU with a company in Indonesia, hopefully for 100,000 tons as well,” he said.
In the first nine months of this year, Cambodia produced 369,000 tons of rice, a 37 percent increase in the same period last year, Mr. Chanthol said. However, the commerce minister admitted that the government’s goal of exporting 1 million tons of rice in 2015 “is not achievable.”
“I would be happy by the end of the year to be able to ship 500,000 tons,” he said.
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