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Interest in organic rice grows

In a sign that demand for organic rice is increasing, Mekong Oryza Trading yesterday became the first private company in Cambodia to agree to export the product abroad.

Phnom Penh-based rice exporter Mekong Oryza signed the memorandum of understanding with agricultural non-profit CEDAC, which introduced the concept of organic rice farming in 2004, and became the sole exporter about five years later.

Organic rice is produced without modern synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. From beginning to end, the process needs to follow a clear step by step system in order to receive certification.

While demand is on the rise, the market is still puny compared to Cambodia’s staple milled rice product. On the strength of more interest in the US and EU, CEDAC estimates it will export 320 tonnes of organic rice in 2013, compared with 100 tonnes for all of last year. In the first 10 months this year, Cambodia exported nearly 300,000 tonnes of non-organic rice.

As part of the agreement, starting in early 2014, Mekong Oryza Trading will provide funding to farmers and help scout potential markets. Speaking at the signing at the Rural Development Bank in Phnom Penh, Hun Lak, managing director of Mekong Oryza Trading, said that Cambodia should capitalise while it can.

“[Producing] organic rice is our great opportunity,” Lak said.

Yang Saing Koma, president of CEDAC, said there are 5,000 households applying organic rice methods on their farms.

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