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National products chase GI recognition

A lack of funds would prevent Cambodia registering some of the country’s specialty products as geographic indications (GI), a form of international recognition that has boosted the sales of other domestic products such as Kampong Speu palm sugar.

The government would like to see Siem Reap prahok, or fermented fish paste, Cambodian silk and rice, as well as Kampot durian, listed with internationally known products such as France’s champagne and Thailand’s jasmine rice.

GI status would protect the rights of the product under international trade law, but Ministry of Commerce secretary of state Mao Thora said the high prices associated with the process would prevent the products gaining recognition, at least for now.

“The project is stuck because we cannot find the money to do it. This integration with a geographic identity is very important for the value of the products,” he said.

The registration of Kampong Speu palm sugar and Kampot pepper had cost US$800,000 in 2010, and was carried out only with financial assistance from the French Development Agency, Mao Thora said. He declined to say how much the four products would cost to register.

Growth potential for the Cambodian silk market would climb if a GI was obtained for Khmer silk, Soeng Kim Yun, executive director of the League of Cambodian Crafts, said yesterday.

“It would open up the market [for Cambodian silk]. Merchants selling silk would be more encouraged to produce the product,” he said, adding that GI status would give the Kingdom’s silk a competitive edge in international markets.

Demand for Kampong Speu palm sugar soared after it was granted GI status.

“Previously, we didn’t export to foreign markets, but now we have lots of orders and several markets to export to,” Kampong Speu Palm Sugar Association president Sam Saroeun said.

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