Cambodian imports of packaged monosodium glutamate (MSG) totalled just 2,086 tonnes last year, the lowest amount since 2002, according to import figures from the customs department of the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
The import figures showed that from 2002 to 2010, Cambodia had imported a total of 137,908 tonnes of MSG, an average of about 15,323 tonnes annually.
While domestic MSG consumption is said to be on the rise, industry insiders say the decline of imports is not because Cambodians are turning away from the popular taste enhancer, but because a local packaging factory is feeding domestic demand.
Junji Mitsumoto, managing director of Ajinomoto Cambodia, a Japanese MSG packaging firm located in Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone (PPSEZ), said production by his company is growing gradually, parallel to the increase in the Kingdom’s MSG consumption.
“[The demand] is increasing slowly, thanks to an increase of the population,” he told the Post yesterday. “The potential market demand is about 20,000 tonnes per year with a 1.6 kilogram per capita consumption.”
Cambodia does not have a processing factory for the flavour enhancer. Factories like Ajinomoto Cambodia import the seasoning as a finished good and then repackage it in the country to sell it domestically.
However, since Ajinomoto established its packaging facility in the PPSEZ in 2010, the import of packaged MSG to Cambodia has been dropping noticeably.
While importing an average of 15,000 tonnes per year from 2002 to 2010, it dropped to 2,354 tonnes in 2011. Last year, it dropped an additional 11 per cent in 2012.
According to Junji Mitsumoto’s estimation, with 1.6 kilogrammes per capita consumption, the spending on MSG by Cambodians can be higher compared to neighbouring countries.
Imported MSG in Cambodia usually costs about 10,200 riel ($2.5) per kilogram.
Sok Vandy, a retail seller in a traditional market in Phnom Penh, said among imported items, brands from Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam are for sale.
“Brands such as Ajinomoto, Thailand’s Red Ladle and Vietnam’s Vedan are sold daily in my grocery store,” she said.