Japonica Rice Ready For Farming

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The government yesterday announced that a new rice variety known as ‘japonica’ is officially available for farming after having passed performance tests.

Women working in a rice field in Cambodia. KT/Mom Sophon

Officially called ‘oryza sativa japonica’, the rice variety will be planted in 200,000 hectares around the country, and will be shipped primarily to China, where it is very popular, Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon said Monday.

Tests on japonica and its adaptability to the Cambodian soil have been conducted in Kampong Speu province, after the ministry signed an agreement in January with two Chinese laboratories, Hunan Hybrid Rice Research Center and Jiangsu Long An Agricultural Technology, to study the grain jointly.

The ultimate goal of the agreement is to feed vast demand for the grain in the Chinese market, Mr Sakhon explained.

“As planned, 200,000 hectares of land will be used for planting japonica seeds, producing up to six tonnes of paddy rice per hectare,” he said, although he failed to go into details regarding the provinces where the plantations will be located.

In January, Hean Vanhan, director-general of the Ministry of Agriculture, said that while little-known in Cambodia, the japonica rice variety is vastly popular in China, particularly in the north. He said planting the variety at home was an important stepping stone in boosting exports to China, which is already Cambodia’s biggest market for rice.

Moul Sarith, secretary-general of the Cambodia Rice Federation, said japonica will also be used domestically.

“Many well-known Japanese and Korean chefs working in Cambodia like to cook with this variety, so demand is very high,” he said, adding that japonica fetches higher prices than any other type of rice grown in the kingdom.

During the first three months of the year, 25.7 percent of all Cambodian exports of milled rice went to China (41,412 tonnes out of a total of 161,115 tonnes exported).

This article was originally published in the Khmer Times.