The annual rice forum starts in Phnom Penh today, bringing together farmers, businesses and researchers for a two-day event that seeks to find solutions to some of the sector’s most pressing questions.
Bolstering local production, researching and developing new rice varieties and expanding the market for Cambodian rice abroad will be some of the most important topics on the event’s agenda.
“The most important issues will be meeting the demands of foreign markets. We have to change our ways and switch to high-yielding varieties,” said Mr Hun Lak, vice president of the Cambodia Rice Federation, the event’s organiser.
The forum will feature presentations from rice-producing communities, rice millers, processing factories and exporters, according to Mr Lak.
The first rice forum took place in 2012. Since then, the sector has come a long way, said Mr Lak.
“When we started with these forums, our exports were minimal and very few countries knew about us. However, with each successive forum, we see how more and more countries are aware of Cambodian rice and are buying our products.
“In the last two years, exports of Cambodian milled rice have increased significantly. In 2018, we expect a stable increase in our share of the international market.
“On top of this, the price of rice continues to be good, with farmers happy because they are selling all the rice they produce at a good price,” Mr Lak said.
Chan Sokheang, chairman of rice exporting company Signature of Asia, said that the increase in the popularity of Cambodian rice abroad was the result of the hard work of authorities and businesses in the sector.
“In the last two years, we have seen a lot of progress. Orders of Cambodian rice abroad have increased substantially, and local output has also risen,” Mr Sokheang said, adding that the forum is playing a key role in promoting Cambodian rice beyond the kingdom’s borders.
During the event, rewards for Best National Rice will be handed out in three categories: premium aromatic rice, fragrant rice, and long grain white rice.
Malys Angkor, the first brand name of Cambodian premium rice, will be formally launched during the event.
“It is great news to have a formal brand name. We have to promote it intensely to increase the popularity of Cambodian rice abroad,” Mr Sokheang said.
In 2017, Cambodia exported 635,679 tonnes of milled rice to international markets, an increase of 17.3 percent year-on-year.