The Kampong Speu palm sugar market will only get sweeter next year on the back of a perceived uptrend in demand from Europe.
The Ministry of Commerce granted domestic geographical indication (GI) to the commodity in 2010 under the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO’s) agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.
And on April 2 last year, the European Commission (EC) announced that it would join Kampot pepper in its registry of protected GIs (PGIs), after the fruit was awarded the status on February 18, 2016.
Any product sold in EU countries purporting to be “Skor Thnot Kampong Speu”, as it was registered, must carry the “EU PGI logo” which certifies that it originates from either Kampong Speu province’s Oudong or Samrong Tong districts, or Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district, the EC said in a statement.
Farm Link Ltd general manager Sebastien Lesieur told The Post that the market would rebound in 2021, after a year of nonexistent domestic demand amid Covid-19 left it on tenterhooks.
While the company generally sells 20 per cent of its product locally, the pandemic ensured that its local stockpiles remained higher than usual this year, he lamented.
Health crisis notwithstanding, he said demand for the GI product from Europe had been on an uphill slope, surging at an average of 10 per cent over the past 10 years.
“We still have some stock from last year due to the low demand on the domestic market, but we have found some new customers in Europe.
“We will buy from five to eight tonnes [from producers]. We usually export the palm sugar just after the end of the harvest, in May and June,” Lesieur said.
So far this year, he said the company has exported five tonnes of palm sugar, 20 tonnes combined of Kampot pepper, Indian long pepper (Piper longum) and “fleur de sel” (flower of salt).
“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.
Palm sugar is a relatively expensive option. It is sold at a retail price of around €10-15 ($12.10-18.15) per kg in Europe, whereas the cane variety costs just €1-2 per kg.
“It is an amazing product – natural, not refined and good for your health,” Lesieur noted.
Kampong Speu Palm Sugar Promotion Association (KSPSPA) president Sam Saroeun told The Post on December 10 that a local company is working with an Indian firm to strike up a deal to sell 100 tonnes of the sugar for export to the emerging economic giant.
He said the association was scheduled to meet with company representatives on December 11 to discuss the ins and outs of the agreement.
“To avoid unforeseen market consequences, we want the company to buy 10 to 20 tonnes in a trial run, given how little we know about the Indian market. We do not want it to fall flat,” Saroeun said.
He expects GI status branded palm sugar products to garner more domestic and international support next year, he said, noting that as the association has recruited 177 households to its ranks in a bid to shore up production for export.
“We are conducting technical training for the production team and further promoting the Kampong Speu palm sugar brand to prevent counterfeiting,” Saroeun said.
Today, retail Kampong Speu palm sugar sells for 6,000 riel ($1.50) per kg, he said.
According to Saroeun, the KSPSPA’s members can produce 250 tonnes of the commodity per season in December-May.
He said its 10 member companies exported a total of 70 tonnes this year to 15 countries in Asia and Europe.