With a study being carried out now to determine whether or not they deserve the designation, oranges grown in Pursat and Battambang might soon become the next Cambodian agricultural product to gain Geographical Indication (GI) status.
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Being awarded the GI label will protect the product’s reputation and taste while boosting income for producers, experts say.
The orange is grown in Pursat and Battambang provinces, in the western part of the country, generating substantial incomes for growers. However, the product’s reputation is at risk, with local traders marketing fruits of unknown origin as ‘Pursat-Battambang oranges’.
To counter this practice, the Ministry of Commerce and growers are considering the establishment of the ‘Pursat-Battambang Orange Association’, and are hoping to get the fruit register as a GI product.
Sok Sarang, expert on quality standards of agricultural products and country representative for Ecocert, an organic certification organisation, told Khmer Times that the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) will likely support the ministry’s effort to obtain GI status for the fruit, adding that there are at least two other Cambodian products that could obtain the certification.
“Recently, we went to Preah Vihear to study the organic rice there. We also went to Pursat and Battambang to study oranges as well as silk,” Mr Sarang said.
“In fact, all these products have potential, but we have no idea whether the Ministry of Commerce will support their candidacy for GI. First, we need to carry a feasibility study, which we are doing now.”
Due to their reputation and to the backing of the Ministry of Commerce, the oranges grown in Pursat and Battambang are strong candidates to obtain the designation, he said.
The biggest challenge to secure the certification, Mr Sarang said, might be deciding under what name to register the fruit.
“During a workshop with Pursat and Battambang orange producers last month, producers were unable to decide on a name for the product,” Mr Sarang said.
“Producers from Pursat said the name should be ‘Pursat orange’, while those from Battambang wanted to call it ‘Pursat-Battambang orange’.
“A final decision on the subject will be made by the Ministry of Commerce,” he added.
Lay Piseth, the director of Pursat’s agricultural department, said obtaining the GI label will boost the orange’s reputation abroad.
“Now, our fruit is mostly consumed locally, although we do export some to Thailand.
“Our oranges have a unique sweetness with a hint of sourness, and also benefit from being largely grown without chemicals,” Mr Piseth said.
He said Pursat has about 5,000 hectares of orange trees, adding that a crate of 40 oranges fetches $8.75 to $15.
Op Rady, director of intellectual property at the Ministry of Commerce, told Khmer Times that officials and certification experts are now holding discussions about the name of the fruit, its characteristics and market potential.
“We are still in the initial phase, having done only a few studies and discussions.
“We all know that Pursat’s oranges have great potential, but there are a number of factors that we need to consider before we move forward,” Mr Rady added.
Last year, the ministry gave GI status to the pomelo grown in Kratie’s Koh Trung commune, while rice authorities unveiled the ‘Malys Angkor’ rice brand, a new certification mark that encompasses a range of Cambodian fragrant rice varieties.
Trademark registration with the Ministry of Commerce saw an 11 percent increase in 2018, with 4,186 trademarks approved, compared to 3,917 in 2017.
Nearly 1,500 approved trademarks came from local applicants, an increase of about 400 compared to last year, while 2,702 applicants had foreign origin. The ministry also renewed 1,850 marks, an increase of 0.22 percent from last year.