Kampot pepper and Kampong Speu palm sugar have been awarded Geographical Indication (GI) status in Thailand, under efforts to prevent unscrupulous traders passing off versions of the Cambodian products.
The Ministry of Commerce said Thailand is the second ASEAN country to recognise the status of the goods, after Vietnam extended legal protection to the products last year.
GI status, which is similar to a trademark, guarantees the quality and authenticity of goods from a particular place. For example, any product calling itself “Kampot pepper” must come from the designated region of Kampot and neighbouring Kep province.
The deal with Thailand, which was finalised on Monday, was reached after negotiations involving the Ministry of Commerce, the French Development Agency, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the European Union and the French Embassy.
Op Rady, director of intellectual property at the Commerce Ministry, said the GI status means Vietnamese and Thai authorities can take action if anyone tries to sell fake Kampot pepper and Kampong Speu palm sugar there. Rady said Kampong Speu palm sugar is yet to be used widely in Thailand, but Kampot pepper is on sale in supermarkets in Bangkok. Nobody has infringed on the GI status of the products to date, he added.
Sam Saroeun, president of the Kampong Speu Palm Sugar Association, said GI status will help protect Cambodian producers. “We will tell our members and companies that Kampong Speu palm sugar has been registered as a GI product, to make sure exporters can file a complaint if there is an infringement,” he said.
Sok Sarang, advisor to the Kampot Pepper Promotion Association and Kampong Speu Palm Sugar Association, said the move will help promote high-quality Cambodian products. “I have seen Kampot pepper on sale in Thailand, and now some companies there are interested in buying large quantities to sell,” said Sarang.
“At the moment, 70 percent of Kampot pepper is exported to Europe. We have to look at other potential markets to build our sustainability.” He added the market for Kampong Speu palm sugar is more limited, but prices are better this year than last.
Last year, Kampot pepper received GI certification from the EU. Kampong Speu palm sugar is also being considered for GI status by the EU, as is Kampot salt, Phnom Srok silk, fragrant milled rice from Battambang province and Kampot durian. Kampong Speu palm sugar is currently undergoing a verification process to be sold in the EU, after being accepted in principle for GI status in August last year.
Rady said Cambodia has many products that could seek GI recognition, but registration is expensive so it requires funding from development partners to pursue. “If there is support from development partners, we will also seek GI recognition for these two products in other countries; however, Vietnam and Thailand are the main markets now. Laos will be considered later,” he said.
Sarang said Kampong Speu palm sugar is expected to receive GI status certification from the EU by the end of this year.