Cambodia's first experimental farm and research centre for potato cultivation opened yesterday as experts confirmed that the Kingdom’s soils are suitable for the starchy tuber – raising hopes that local crops could one day satisfy the fast-food cravings that have put potatoes in high demand.
The facility is located on the campus of Royal University of Agriculture and was built at a cost of $200,000, with funding provided by South Korea’s development agency, KOICA.
Minister of Agriculture Veng Sakhon said his ministry recently test-planted potatoes on small plots in mountainous Mondulkiri province. The results of the experiment proved that the crop can be grown in Cambodia’s tropical soils, and will likely succeed in Kratie and Ratanakkiri provinces as well, he said.
“The trend of eating foods made from potatoes is increasing in Cambodia, especially among youth,” Sakhon said. “So, we are trying to plant them to supply to the market.” The minister referred to the rising demand for french fries, potato chips and other potato-based foods, but admitted he did not have any hard data to support this.
Thon Serei Udom, assistant to the chairman of HSC Group, which operates the US fast-food chain Burger King in Cambodia, said the demand for potatoes in the company’s restaurants continues to climb. While the chain’s nine local outlets currently source all their potato needs from US suppliers, he said the company would welcome local production.
“Demand for potatoes is increasing annually in parallel with our growing number of branches, so it’s good to try growing potatoes in our country,” he said. “We welcome [this initiative] and always try to use locally made products as much as we can.”