One of Cambodia’s largest rice millers and exporters, AMRU Rice Co, yesterday signed a deal with eight farmer cooperatives in Preah Vihear province to purchase 2,500 tonnes of organic fragrant paddy rice.
AMRU Rice CEO and president Song Saran said the agreement states that farmers of the eight cooperatives will be paid a 20 per cent premium over the market’s current price per tonne for standard fragrant Jasmine paddy. The deal also covers the cost of transporting the grain from Preah Vihear to the firm’s mill in Battambang province.
“The first shipment of 10 containers [20 tonnes per container] will start in November after the rice is certified with ‘organic’ status from ECOCERT, a French organic certification body,” Saran said.
“Preah Vihear is a new land for rice farming. Farmers cannot afford to use chemical fertilisers and pesticides so they rely on very traditional farming methods, which in turn make the rice automatically organic.”
Ouk Bopha Phalnary, president of the rice community in Preah Vihear’s Roveang district, said AMRU’s offer would end the farmers’ dependence on middlemen, who often force them to accept bottom-dollar rates.
“Traders offer whatever price they want,” he said.
“Farmers have no choice because they need the money. We are happy that we can have a certain market for our rice with a good price. It gives us more confidence to keep planting our crops.”
Figures from CEDAC, a nonprofit agricultural organisation, show that more than 257 tonnes of organic rice was exported to the US, Germany and Hong Kong between January and August this year.