Three local products are in the final stages of domestic geographical indication (GI) registration, with another not far behind, the Ministry of Commerce reported, raising hopes that the protected status would allow producers to expand their footprint globally, and promote a surge in the value of their goods.

These are “Kampot-Kep salt”, “Kampot-Kep fish sauce” and “Takeo crayfish”, with Koh Kong Scylla crabs still at an earlier stage in the process, as mentioned in a report issued in conjunction with the commerce ministry’s annual meeting on January 30-31, where officials reviewed the Cabinet-level agency’s performance in 2022 and set objectives for 2023.

GIs are intellectual property (IP) tools that protect products originating or otherwise strongly linked to a specific geographical region, and that possess particular qualities, reputations or other characteristics that are fundamentally attributable to their territory of origin. GI products are generally accompanied by a sign to distinguish them from unauthorised analogues.

Under the technical assistance of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Agence Francaise de Development (AFD), commerce ministry officials have prepared the Articles of Association as well as the Book of Specifications for “Kampot-Kep salt”, the report said.

And working with the EU’s Arise Plus Intellectual Property Rights programme, they have organised four consultative workshops to date on “Kampot-Kep fish sauce” and “Takeo crayfish”, it said, adding that WIPO is also lending a hand in the registration process for the Koh Kong Scylla crabs.

Speaking to The Post on January 31, Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng reflected on the advantages of having GI tags and similar IP assets for more indigenous products, whether traditional or modern, including the protection of the interests of producers and their communities, greater export potential, and an improved profile for Cambodian goods.

GI status also improves consumer confidence, inspires investment in the underlying products, and helps prevent counterfeit copies of protected goods, especially those to be exported, thanks to domestic consumer protection and fair competition laws, he explained.

Perhaps the most prominent local success story has been Kampot pepper, the most highly-prized variety of these piquant berries cultivated in the Kingdom, grown in the namesake coastal province, which remains the sole cultivar protected under domestic GI status. The Kampot Pepper Promotion Association (KPPA) is in charge of managing this GI.

KPPA president Nguon Lay noted that all of the 100-130 tonnes of Kampot pepper produced each year – exclusively by association members – are fairly quickly bought up despite commanding higher prices than other varieties, which he credited to the GI tag and the crop’s superior quality.

And as the guidelines set out in the Book of Specifications have to be followed at all stages of production, consumers can be confident in any GI products’ quality, he claimed.

“GI registration will bring lots of positive results for farmers in the area who work as agreed upon, and in particular, it’ll expand the export market,” Lay said.