The Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) today announced a new “Malys Angkor” brand to be used as the official moniker for four species of Cambodian fragrant rice.
The first day of the two-day Cambodia Rice Forum also featured the release of a remarkably frank report on the industry group’s internal issues, which acknowledges that the CRF’s numerous flaws are currently preventing it from acting as a proper representative of the country’s rice sector.
Sok Puthyvuth, president of the CRF and son-in-law of Prime Minister Hun Sen, lauded the branding effort at the launch of the forum at Phnom Penh’s Sofitel Hotel today.
“The rice branding is the key for reaching the sustainable markets,” Puthyvuth said. “The branding will…ensure the quality and origin of premium and fragrant rice from Cambodia for international consumers.”
The Angkor Malys label can now be applied to the Phka Rumduol, Phka Romeat, Phka Rumdeng and Somali species of fragrant rice, while the remaining four types may be added in the future, according to CRF secretary-general Moul Sarith.
Khy Muny, general manager of rice miller AMRU Rice (Cambodia), welcomed the branding effort, noting that the industry had been waiting since 2010 for a unified label.
“This name will stop all conflicts and confusion, as the name is the identification for where our rice is from,” Muny said. “It supports the consumer by making it easier to come back to us.”
Nil Sopheap, president of Federation of Cambodian Farmer Organization for Development, also expressed hope that the branding would lead to more exports and boost demand for Cambodian rice.
“Rice branding will promote the demand of rice, which will cause more demand from farmers, which will increase our profits,” he said.
The Malys Angkor branding push is part of the CRF’s long-term goal to promote the country’s rice sector, but those efforts are being hampered by significant internal problems, according to the group’s “Strategic Plan 2017-2021”.
“Current assessments suggest that there are many challenges facing the CRF,” the report says, noting that board members appear to have “commitment discipline issues” and that many board members only attend meetings “when the meeting is about their interests”.
Other complaints include farmers being pushed aside in favor of millers and traders, as well as more wealthy or connected members having greater access to the CRF’s services and attention than regular members.
Money also appears to be a problem, as “lack of sufficient financing” and few technical experts results in the CRF lacking a way of “sustainably handling requests from of [sic] members of the rice sector.”
In addition, board decisions “often remain unimplemented”, and a new scheme to increase local-level monitoring of the rice sector by placing CRF representatives in various zones around the country may run into trouble because “the CRF appears to not possess all the requirements” to implement the program.
Despite those challenges, the strategic plan includes a variety of measures the group hopes will boost rice productivity, including the mechanisation and modernisation of farming practices.
“Agro-modernization will help to reduce the expense and cost of production, and strengthen the trust within the production chain,” Puthyvuth said at the forum. “We are starting to increase the awareness of modernisation, strengthen the farming cooperatives and networking in order to get funds to modernise.”
Sopheap of the farmer’s organisation said that was sound policy, but urged patience and additional assistance from authorities.
“It is good policy to promote modernised farming, but the awareness of farmers is still limited,” he said. “I think it needs time, and needs a lot of financial support from government to push this to happen.”