Men Sarun Powder Factory – Cambodia’s first and only domestic noodle producer – began operations in 2008. Since then, the company has doubled its workforce and now employs 120 people. The factory produces 364,000 packages of noodles a day.
Phnom Penh Post reporter Sieam Bunthy interviewed general director Linh Than about the company’s development process and its plans.
What prompted the establishment of your company?
We saw that packaged instant noodle products were yet to be produced domestically, and most Cambodians like eating instant noodles. Another reason is that the factory helped create jobs for people and increased local income standards.
What are Men Sarun Powder Factory’s top priorities?
Our vision is for our noodle product to be safe and of good-quality for our people. We have seen that some imported noodles have met international standard but lacked quality. So we are thinking of how to make our noodles safe, of good quality and useful to the people.
How have the noodles been received domestically?
So far, we have seen that our noodles have been supported by a lot of people and our production is always increasing. Now we can sell 200,000 cases a month, whereas previously we sold only 150,000 to 170, 000 cases per month.
Who are your primary customers?
We distribute noodles throughout the country and export to Malaysia and Korea. We are now designing packaging [in English] and plan to export to the US by March or April next year. In the first year, we will export about 200,000 cases ar month and within four years we will export around one million cases.
The price range is in the middle of the market: more expensive than Vietnamese noodles and cheaper than Thai noodles. According to retails in markets, one package costs 700 riel (US$0.17).
What obstacles does the company face?
Our people are yet to clearly understand the benefit or importance of noodle quality. They don’t care about quality.
As long as it is cheap, delicious and they are familiar with it, they buy it. Now we see people with stomach aches, kidney sickness and diarrhoea.
Electricity rates are also an obstacle because electricity in [competitor] countries is cheap.
Nowadays, we see the government is trying to build hyper-power projects, so we believe that it won’t be longer than one or two years before domestic electricity rates will be similar to those in neighbouring countries.
What are your hopes for food-industry standards in Cambodia?
We will try to discuss the bettering of the quality of our products and urge the government, especially the Ministry of Commerce, to form a set of national standards.
This is now under way, and we hope that when the nat-ional standards become formal all products sold domestically will be of good quality.
Does the company have any concerns about competition when trade barriers are dropped in accordance with ASEAN integration in 2015?
We don’t have any concerns because this is a free market and it is ASEAN’s policy.
We aren’t worried because we are ready both in both terms of quality and service. With the opening of the free market, [competitors] can sell at a cheap price and we also can sell at a cheap price.
Nowadays we want to export to [competitor] countries, but high taxes restrict our access to their markets.