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Cambodia beaten by Thailand in heated annual rice contest

A table set up to display Cambodian rice at the World’s Best Rice Competition in China.
A table set up to display Cambodian rice at the World’s Best Rice Competition in China. Facebook

Cambodia beaten by Thailand in heated annual rice contest

For the third year in a row Cambodia has failed to take the top spot in the World’s Best Rice contest, instead earning second place after Thailand.

Seven major rice-producing countries entered into the contest this week in Macau, China, where 21 samples of rice were presented for judging, according to Hun Lak, vice president of the Cambodia Rice Federation. While Cambodia’s Phka Rumdoul variety of fragrant rice impressed the judges, it was Thailand’s own Hom Mali rice that took the first place prize.

“We came in second after Thailand, but our rice was recognised and widely supported for its good quality during the contest. Many buyers from China and Vietnam are interested in buying our rice,” Lak said. “Thailand had a very strong presentation linking the late King [Bhumibol Adulyadej] to the history of its rice, which was very attractive to the audience and made it difficult for Cambodia to win.”

The rice is judged according to five criteria, both before and after cooking, including appearance, texture, moisture, aroma and length of grain.

Cambodia’s Phka Rumduol rice was once a consistent winner of the competition, coming in first place for three consecutive years between 2012 and 2014, but it lost its crown to the United States’ Calrose rice in 2015 and lost again to Thailand’s Hom Mali last year.

Despite this year’s loss, Deputy Director of Capital Food Chray Son noted that the Cambodian rice market should still benefit from having participated in the competition.

“We always gain experience from this competition, and we learn to prepare for the next,” he said yesterday, adding that Cambodia needs to further strengthen the quality of its rice seeds, improve irrigation and enhance its harvesting and milling techniques.

“Standing in second place does not hurt our market, and it is not a bad thing. It is better than not winning an award,” he said. “We gain a lot of benefits from promoting our rice, and more or less this will help with the growth of our exports.”

The World’s Best Rice Competition may be a useful tool for promoting the quality of Cambodian rice, but the best way for the Kingdom’s industry to attract buyers and enhance its reputation is to focus on efforts from its private sector, according to Hean Vanhan, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture.

“Even though we place at the top of this competition every year, rice exports are not increasing much, and rumours of fake or low-quality rice have tarnished the reputation of Cambodia’s rice sector internationally,” he said. “We are also noticing rice exporters have a limited capacity to attract buyers.”

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