Two Czech nationals have helped to establish a set of vacuum packaging and drying chambers for the use of small-scale pepper farmers in Kampot.
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Klara Dohnalova and David Pavel handed over the food-processing equipment to the agricultural workers earlier this month after getting the backing of Czech businesses and the Czech Development Agency under fair trade terms.
The pair established a company called EU Land and Pepper Investment in the province two years ago to supply their home country with the prized spice.
It proved to be so popular that they engaged Czech glass and wood designers to create distinctive packaging and have their own brand of different peppers sold in designer test tubes.
Dohnalova and Pavel work with small-scale farmers who cannot afford their own equipment and reinvest part of their profits to support them so they can branch out beyond the local market.
“As an importer we guarantee full fair trade price for all small pepper farmers involved,” said Pavel. “The food processing machinery helps them to be more competitive against bigger producers.
His associate Dohnalova added: “Besides cooperating with small famers we also very much focus on marketing, which is lagging behind. Moreover, there is a similar view among Kampot Pepper Promotion Association co-members that better promotion and inclusiveness of small producers is essential.”
The contribution comes at a time when the government is keen to develop the food processing industry in Cambodia rather than just producing raw goods.
Because of the development of fair trade under which both local and foreign businesses can cooperate, the project got the support from the Czech Development Agency (CZDA). Under its B2B (business to business) Programme, CZDA has provided a partial subsidy for the project implementation with the rest invested by the Czech company, which had to demonstrate it was creating business-to-business opportunities and making a positive impact on employment and livelihood.
Modernisation of agriculture in Cambodia is a serious business interest for Czech machinery suppliers. In the past, Czech companies built a sugar mill in Cambodia and supplied the machinery for cooperatives.
For many of them food, processing looks promising as a market opportunity because it can lift up Cambodia from primary production to global value chains and enhance competiveness and skills.
In addition, when it comes to skills the Czech Republic is already active locally in this field. Apart the food processing, there is an ongoing cooperation between Czech and Cambodian universities in agriculture, agro-forestry and applied research.