The Ministry of Commerce launched a new agency whose aim is to inspect the production and supply chain of rice branded as ‘made in Cambodia’ to guarantee its origin and provide assurance to foreign buyers.
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With Cambodian rice having won multiple international awards for its quality, the move seeks to prevent the sale of foreign rice falsely claiming to hail from the kingdom.
The initiative is precautionary as, according to a ministry official, very few cases of ‘fake’ Cambodian rice have been reported to date.
The new working group is staffed by officials from the commerce and agriculture ministries, as well as members of the Cambodian Rice Federation.
A total of 12 individuals will make up the team, which has the authority to look into data related to every stage of the production and supply process, including processing, storing and exporting the product.
“We export rice to foreign markets like the EU with certain benefits, like being exempted from paying tariffs,” said Seang Thay, spokesman at the Minister of Commerce.
“We don’t want buyers complaining about having purchased rice that wasn’t grown in Cambodia, because we could lose some of those trade benefits.
“We have to ensure that the rice is grown and processed here.”
Mr Thay said the ministry has yet to receive a single complaint from a buyer who has been sold ‘fake’ Cambodian rice, but justified the creation of the new agency by saying it will prevent any such cases from happening in the future .
He said the agency will guarantee that buyers continue to trust Cambodian rice.
Despite the lack of official complaints, there has been a few documented cases of rice from third countries being deceptively sold as Cambodian rice, Mr Thay said.
Hean Vanhan, director-general of the general directorate of agriculture, said the new agency will help keep the reputation of Cambodian rice intact.
“We aim to guarantee the purity of our rice, and make sure that foreigners are not sending their rice to Cambodia, and selling it from here as Cambodian rice,” he said.
“We have heard of some cases in which rice from other countries was sold as Cambodian rice, but we don’t have strong data on this,” Mr Vanhan said, adding that perpetrators were looking to benefit from the tariff exemptions that Cambodia enjoys with key markets like the US and the EU.
Khy Maly, sales and export manager at Amru Rice, also welcomed the new agency, saying buyers will now have certainty that they are buying real Cambodian rice.
“It is a great move to guarantee that the rice is grown, processed and packaged in Cambodia,” she said.
Last year, exports of Cambodian rice increased by 17.3 percent, reaching 635,679 tonnes, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.