After nearly a decade of research and development, Cambodia and Australia on April 5 jointly announced the official launch of a new fragrant rice variety named Champei Sar 70 (CPS 70) to mark the 70th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two nations.

CPS 70 was born of close collaboration between the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the Australian government, following nine years of studies and 80 on-farm trials in both dry and rainy seasons. The cultivar was bred from the award-winning Phka Rumduol and CNi9024, according to an April 5 joint press release by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh.

Agriculture minister Dith Tina and Australian ambassador Justin Whyatt jointly harvested CPS 70 during the April 5 ceremonial launch at the CARDI headquarters on the outskirts of the capital.

Tina noted that CPS 70 was named by Prime Minister Hun Sen to celebrate the two nations’ diplomatic relations, which has now turned 70.

“This new variety will significantly contribute to the diversification of fragrant rice production and the export of fragrant rice to international markets, leading to the improvement of farmers’ livelihoods,” Tina was quoted as saying in the release.

Whyatt said his government takes pride in providing support for the development of CPS 70.

“I hope that farmers across Cambodia will grow CPS 70 to supply local and international markets, including Australia,” Whyatt was cited as saying in the release.

Accroding to CARDI director Lor Bunna, CPS 70 is a non-seasonal crop that matures after three months. It is resistant to floods and drought, thereby enabling farmers to grow it two to three times per year.

Baskets of CPS 70 paddy on display at the launch on April 5. Hong Menea

“This rice variety is very beneficial for both farmers and traders. It could help farmers cut down on their expenses and efforts to take care of their rice fields. Since it is non-seasonal, traders can buy the paddy all year round,” he said.

Australia has been a long-term partner to the Cambodia’s agricultural development, first sending agricultural specialists to the Kingdom in the 1960s.

The world’s sixth-largest nation supported the establishment of CARDI in 1999, and ran the Cambodia-Australia Agricultural Value Chain Programme (CAVAC) for 12 years, through two phases. CAVAC Phase II came to an end last year.

Last September, it announced the launch of a new programme: Cambodia-Australia Partnership for Resilient Economic Development (CAP-RED). The programme aims to support sustainable economic development and resilience.

Song Saran, president of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), described CPS 70 as a game changer in terms of environmental concerns.

“It will also make Cambodian rice more competitive on the international market, while promising higher yields to farmers, as it is resistant to the effects of climate change,” he said.

“Phka Rumduol won many awards, so if the new variety has any of its qualities, it will be a high-quality product. I hope that we can introduce it to new markets,” he added.

He said the CRF is looking forward to entering the new variety in international competitions, along with the proven Phka Rumduol and Sen Kra’op 01.