Agriculture minister Dith Tina has suggested that Jongsoo Shin, Asia director of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), cooperate with the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) to study varieties of low glycemic index (low-GI) rice that would be suitable for cultivation in Cambodia.

Tina met with Shin on May 15 at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Phnom Penh.

According to the ministry, Tina expressed his gratitude for the IRRI’s cooperation, especially with regards to different varieties of rice.

“The IRRI should cooperate with CARDI and the [ministry’s] Department of International Cooperation to thoroughly examine the possibility of developing the production of low-GI rice,” Tina was quoted as telling Shin.

“In addition, we need to focus on human resource development, as its benefits continue long after a project is completed. Every project we undertake must take into account people’s health, security and economic stability, in addition to the sustainability of farmers’ incomes,” he added.

CARDI director Lor Bunna on May 16 said that, during the meeting, the IRRI talked about two specific types of rice: Japonica and low-GI.

“CARDI has been working on this for two years. Regarding japonica, we currently examine 100 varieties from South Korea each year. This is the second year we have done so. Of the 100, we have discovered 30 that are suitable for cultivation in Cambodia country,” he explained.

He said the institute will monitor the new varieties for one year, and will then release a report to the agriculture ministry.

“Once this is done, the ministry will release limited seeds to farmers for pilot planting. It is likely to be at least three years before it is widely available,” he said.

“We are also studying local varieties of low-GI rice. We are preparing to release six varieties by year’s end. Following the minister’s recommendation, the IRRI will provide us with more specimens to test. We will evaluate which are the most suitable for Cambodian conditions,” he added.

According to CARDI, thousands of varieties of rice are currently grown in Cambodia. The institute has evaluated more than 2,000 of them.