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Single brand to strengthen market for fragrant rice

Cambodia must focus on building a single recognisable brand for its premium fragrant rice to strengthen its international marketing efforts, Minister of Commerce Sun Chanthol said yesterday.

“Once the consumer recognises our rice brand, as well as the design of the rice package, we will be able to fetch a higher price for our premium rice,” Chanthol said during a roundtable discussion with the British Ambassador.

Cambodia’s Phka Rumduol – a long-grain, aromatic variety of rice – has been awarded the World’s Best Rice at the annual World Rice Conference for three years running. But efforts to market the premium rice variety overseas have stumbled on labeling.

The most prevalent export label, “fragrant rice”, has been deemed too general, while the alternative label “jasmine rice” is also used by Thailand for their premium variety.

While Cambodia’s fragrant rice comes in a number of varieties, such as Phka Romdeng, Phka Romeat, and Phka Rumduol, the commerce minister said all should be marketed under an umbrella brand name.

“We should promote and stick to ‘Phka Romduol’,” he said. “This is what won the contest, so please let’s focus on this name and register it as a trademark or trade name for future use.”

Chanthol said the branding should extend beyond a name and include the packaging, which should incorporate traditional Khmer design elements and his ministry’s seal of approval.

He said a final decision on the sole brand name for the Kingdom’s premium fragrant rice would be made following consultations with the Cambodian Rice Federation and government agencies.

Turning to the issue of quality control, Chanthol rapped some local rice exporters accused of passing off imported aromatic rice as local product. He said consistent high quality was crucial to protecting Cambodia’s reputation as the producer of the world’s best rice.

David Puttnam, the UK Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Cambodia, said more efforts were needed to maintain the quality and consistency of rice exports, and to ensure that shipments of premium fragrant rice were not adulterated by lower-quality varieties.

“The most important thing is the integrity of the product,” he said. “Create the product, get confidence in the product, and then go out and say this is the best in the world.”

Puttnam said quality control was pivotal to landing supply contracts with big buyers. The entire supply chain must be disciplined to prevent its weakest links from destroying the brand reputation the country is working so hard to build, he added.

Rice is Cambodia’s most important agricultural commodity and a staple food item. Milled rice exports reached 387,000 tonnes in 2014, far short of the government’s target of 1 million tonnes a year by 2015.

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