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RBD urges farmers to plant fragrant rice

Sok Chan / Khmer Times Share:
A dish with Sen Kro Ob fragrant rice for display at a trade fair. KT/Chor Sokunthea

With demand in foreign markets on the rise and its price increasing, the government is encouraging farmers to start planting a variety of fragrant rice known as ‘Sen Kro Ob’, which was named best rice in the Kingdom last year.

Kao Thach, CEO of the Rural Development Bank, said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that demand for Sen Kro Ob has experienced a recent boost, but that its supply is still limited.

“Farmers and agricultural communities should consider growing Sen Kro Ob which now fetches a high price and enjoys a stable market,” Mr Thach said, adding that about 5.8 million riels ($1,400) could be generated from a single hectare of land planted with Sen Kro Ob.

He explained that this rice variety has a stable market at home and abroad. According to him, a great number of exporters are now demanding this type of fragrant rice to process it and sell it abroad.

Song Saran, CEO of Amru Rice, one of the leading rice exporters in Cambodia, also believed switching to Sen Kro Ob made economic sense for farmers.

He said demand for Sen Kro Ob has recently spiked, particularly in China and Europe. He explained that in China consumers are changing their eating habits and now prefer fragrant rice over white rice, the country’s traditional staple food. “Thus demand is high and requires that we have a stable and sustainable supply,” he said.

“Particularly when compared to white rice, we can see that Sen Kro Ob has a better market and higher price.”

Sen Kro Ob now sells for 1,400 riels ($0.35) per kilogram of paddy. In 2016, this rice variety fetched just 800 to 900 riels per kilogram.

Yon Sovann, director of Bayon Cereal, another big Cambodian rice exporter, said current production levels for Sen Kro Ob were insufficient to meet huge demand for the commodity abroad.

He said part of the rice’s popularity comes from the fact that last year it was named Cambodia’s best rice in a national competition.

“Australia and Singapore also recognize this type of rice as the best. It is an excellent seedling and it is time for farmers to seize the opportunity and start making money from it.”

In November last year, the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture unveiled a new seedling of Sen Kro Ob that it plans to distribute among farmers across the nation to make it the new “official” fragrant rice variety.

The new purified seedlings will be made available to farmers by the end of 2018, said Ouk Makara, director of the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the government agency that produced the seeds.

He told Khmer Times that CARDI, the Cambodia Agricultural Value Chain Programme (CAVAC) and the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) were working with 30 agricultural communities across the country to test the new seedling in a pilot programme designed to assess the quality and grain yield of the new seeds and weigh them against other popular fragrant rice seedlings used by Cambodian farmers.

“By end of 2018 we will collect results from farmers. If feedback is positive, we will establish it as the new official rice seedling and distribute it to all farmers across the country,” Mr Makara said.

Cambodia’s exports of milled rice fell by 3.4 percent during the first three months of the year compared with the same period in 2017. China continues to be the top buyer, followed by France, Malaysia, Gabon, Poland, the Netherlands and Britain.

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