The Kingdom’s Sen Kra-ob (SKO) fragrant rice has been awarded gold at the “1st China-ASEAN Taste Quality Appraisal Activities of High-Quality Indica Rice Variety”. Prime Minister Hun Manet and senior officials offered their congratulations, noting their expectations that the award would boost the market share of the high-quality cultivar.

In an October 31 press release, the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) – the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body – said SKO rice was awarded gold status on October 28, during an event organised by the Rice Research Institute of the Guangxi Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region Seed Management Station, in China. A total of 61 rice varieties were entered in the contest, 12 of which from ASEAN member states and 49 from Chinese rice-growing provinces and regions.

“SKO was recognised as tasty and of high quality by the competition committee. It was one of several varieties from several nations to be awarded gold,” added the release.

The CRF thanked SKO farmers for their care and attention to producing high-quality seeds.

It called on them to continue to grow the rice, saying the award would give the fragrant cultivar more global recognition and wider access to more markets, as has the Kingdom’s premium jasmine rice Phka Rumduol.

Ministry of Agriculture, forestry and Fisheries spokesman Khim Finan said on November 1 that the award was a source of pride for the Kingdom’s farmers and the overall agriculture sector. He noted that this was not the first time the Kingdom’s rice has been awarded such a ranking.

“Phka Rumduol jasmine rice has been named ‘world’s best rice’ five times. The ministry understands that this outcome will increase the attraction of Cambodian rice exports to international markets,” he said.

He added that in order to boost the Cambodian rice market, the ministry is focussing on promoting the two fragrant varieties – SKO and Phka Rumduol. The strategy involves guaranteeing genetically pure seeds, thus boosting their high-quality image.

Pat Savoeun, head of the O’Saray farming cooperative in O’Saray commune of Takeo province’s Tram Kak district, believes the award is testament to the efforts of several institutions, especially the CRF. It has also encouraged more of the Kingdom’s farming cooperatives to grow SKO.

“Currently my community has over 60 members. To promote the Cambodian fragrant rice market even further, I believe that relevant state institutions should provide capital to buy rice from farmers and facilitate the means of rapidly transporting their harvests to market. They should also provide more specialised training, in order to increase the overall quality of rice and meet market demand,” he said.

According to the agriculture ministry, SKO, released to the general public in 2019, is a non-seasonal variety.

In order to meet market demand, the ministry – through the General Directorate of Agriculture and the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) – entered into a technical and financial agreement with several relevant institutions, including the Cambodia-Australia Agricultural Value Chain Programme (CAVAC), to develop pure rice varieties.