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GI honey, rice flakes’ official recognition in 2021: ministry

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Made in the northeastern province’s forested areas from the Apis dorsata bee, the 'Mondulkiri wild honey' was registered by the ministry as a domestic geographical indication (GI) on January 29. WWF

GI honey, rice flakes’ official recognition in 2021: ministry

The Ministry of Commerce will officially recognise “Mondulkiri Wild Honey” as a domestic geographical indication (GI) and “Ambok Kampong Thom” as a collective trademark this year, a breakthrough that will boost production at all levels and expand international sales of the products, according to spokesman Seang Thay.

Made in the northeastern province’s forested areas from the Apis dorsata bee, the honey was registered by the ministry as a domestic GI on January 29, becoming the fourth such commodity after Kampot pepper, Kampong Speu palm sugar and the pomelos grown in Kratie province’s Koh Trong commune.

Once officially recognised by the ministry, the honey’s newly acquired GI status will offer protection for appellations of origin linked to specific geographical locations and associated qualities, reputations and characteristics. The designation also promotes knowledge transfer and skills development across generations.

And the “Ambok Kampong Thom” brand will be associated with Sankoa commune in the western reaches of Kampong Thom province’s Kampong Svay district.

Made by frying cooked rice dry and pounded by mortar and pestle into flakes and characteristically eaten during the Kingdom’s annual water festival, the ambok’s registration as a collective trademark was revealed at the General Assembly of Ambok Kampong Thom producers on February 16.

Suon Vichea, director of the ministry’s Department of Intellectual Property Rights, defines collective trademarks as signs that distinguish products by geographical origin, industry, quality or other common characteristics.

They are registered under an owner, he told The Post, usually an organisation composed of businesses, merchants and professionals from the same industry or geographical region that pools resources, shares information and provides other benefits for its members.

Ministry spokesman Thay told The Post that his ministry would announce its official recognition of Mondulkiri wild honey and Ambok Kampong Thom within the year, in what he called an initiative of minister Pan Sorasak.

Thay said Cambodia stands to economically benefit from the value-added production of GIs and collective trademarks.

GI and collective-trademark registration is also an important tool to encourage the community to strengthen and expand productions chains, improve systematic quality control, produce high-quality products and, eventually, open the doors to international markets.

Thay said: “The growth of GI products and collective trademarks also has a positive effect on other sectors – such as tourism through identity and territorial image, helping to improve the quality of the products and structure of production chains.”

Srov Phary, who buys of Mondulkiri wild honey directly from the community, welcomed the honey’s official recognition as a GI product, voicing hope that the commodity would have a strong market domestically and abroad.

“We have been looking forward to this for a long time,” she said. “This is a great thing, which will add value and generate income for the community and also help prevent honey fraud from other areas.”

Phary said she believes the official ministerial announcement will also encourage more companies to order honey from the community. With domestic market demand on the rise, she plans to buy 600kg of honey this year, she said.

“Although we do not yet have orders from companies for export to foreign markets, I hope the official announcement will boost orders from companies for export,” Phary added.

According to Mondulkiri Wild Bee Conservation Association (MWBCA) president Kernh Bophat, the association harvested more than 60 tonnes of Mondulkiri wild honey in each of 2019 and 2020.

He said the MWBCA buys honey from members at 60,000 riel ($15) per litre and resells it at 70,000-75,000 riel after removing moisture and wax.

Harvested between March and June each year, Bophat noted that Mondulkiri wild honey is characterised by its unique type of sweetness and fragrance, as well as its high viscosity.

Thay said the ministry plans to register other products as collective trademarks, such as “Nom Banh Chok Siem Reap” – a local variety of rice noodle associated with Siem Reap province’s Preah Dak commune – and the silver-copper sculpting typical of Kampong Luong and Koh Chin communes in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district.

The ministry has been preparing the relevant documents to pave the way for official recognition of the collective trademarks, he said, expressing hope that the process would be completed in the near future.

According to Thay, the ministry is also preparing to draft a joint regulation governing the use of collective trademarks and internal regulations of steamed balut from Sre Ronong commune in Takeo province’s Tram Kak district, as well as Pursat oranges.

The ministry has been working with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and the Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD) on similar themes for Kampot salt and “Fleur de Sel” (flower of salt), he said.

“Fleur de Sel” is a type of salt mainly associated with the northern coast France that forms as a delicate, flaky crust on the surface of seawater.

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