The Battambang provincial Department of Commerce is eyeing two more promising agricultural products typical of the province to register as “collective brands”, in a bid to nurture and preserve the knowledge and traditions of local growers, and provide an ideal springboard for more sightseers to discover previously unexplored localities, according to a senior official.

“Collective brands” are intellectual property (IP) assets based on an underlying ecosystem of businesses, merchants and professionals from the same industry or geographical region that typically pool resources, share information and provide other benefits among members.

Registration of these brands is handled by the Ministry of Commerce – along with its subordinate units – which also grants ownership to a managing organisation. Goods produced or services provided by members are conventionally accompanied by a “collective trademark” to distinguish them from analogues offered by non-members.

Provincial commerce department director Kim Hout identified the two new items as the “Battambang pineapple” and “Thma Koul paddy” – or a variety of husked rice that is characteristic of the namesake district just northwest of Battambang town.

He told The Post on March 10 that his department was “ready” to conduct further studies on the two items, and that it plans to register them as collective brands, along with two other products – the “Pursat orange” and “Battambang wax coconut” (or “Doung khtis Battambang”).

Hout commented that the variety of orange was set to be added to the registry, jointly with neighbouring Pursat province to the southeast, and that a consultative workshop has been held on reputation building for the prospective wax coconut collective brand.

However, he said, more stakeholders would have to volunteer and form the supporting communities before the four items could feasibly be registered. Similarly, he added, more seminars will have to be held to spread awareness of the merits of registration for partners in the “Battambang pineapple” and “Thma Koul paddy” scenes.

“The beneficiaries will be the farmers – these products are rare and legacies from the past. On the whole, we’re doing this to maintain value and benefits for them,” he said, stressing that the registration process would proceed “step-by-step”.

Suon Vichea, director of the ministry’s Department of Intellectual Property Rights, last month said his department has been diligently working closely with small- and medium-sized enterprises, agricultural cooperatives and other associations to build an identity for geographically-tied products, register them as brands, and use the IPs to spur, promote and develop production and businesses.

As a result, “Kampot Pepper”, “Skor Thnot Kampong Speu” (Kampong Speu Palm Sugar), “Koh Trong Pomelo”, and “Mondulkiri Wild Honey” have been registered as geographical indications (GI), with many more products in the pipeline such as “Kampot Salt”, “Fleur de Sel” (Flower of Salt), “Takeo crayfish” and “Kampot Fish Sauce”, he said.

On the collective brand front, he said, the department has registered “Phnom Penh Kuyteav” (Phnom Penh Noodle), “Ambok Kampong Thom” (Kampong Thom Rice Flakes) and “Preah Vihear Milled Rice”.

He added that it plans to add other products such as the silver-copper sculpting typical of Kampong Luong and Koh Chin communes in northern Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district, “Pursat Orange” and “Nom Banh Chok Siem Reap” (a local variety of rice noodle).

Successes in building GIs and collective brands have enabled a number of Cambodian products to penetrate foreign markets and gain wide consumer recognition, such as Kampot Pepper, Phnom Penh Kuyteav and Skor Thnot Kampong Speu, Vichea said.

These products not only fetch high prices, but also help promote the tourism potential of their associated localities, as well as Cambodian culture, customs and traditions, and history on the international stage, he added.

“As evinced by past experience, collective trademark registration has truly yielded many positive results in areas such as economic stimulation, cultural promotion, tourism attraction and local development.

“However, we need to have the most rigorous governance apparatus to monitor and control the use of collective trademarks, and ensure compliance with the spirit of internal regulations and the common purpose,” Vichea said.