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Minister mulls anti-fraud durian stickers

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A woman sells durian in Boeung Prolit commune in Prampi Makara district in May. Heng Chivoan

Minister mulls anti-fraud durian stickers

The new agriculture minister plans to introduce a modern anti-fraud quick-response (QR) code sticker for durian to identify geographical origins and other key attributes, to gain the confidence of buyers and sellers as well as to promote the cultivation and export of the tropical fruit.

Known especially for the pungent smell and custard texture of its flesh, durian – whose name derives from the Malay word for “thorn” – is the edible spike-covered fruit of several tree species in the Durio genus, which are native to Southeast Asia. In Cambodia, the Monthong variety grown in Kampot province is the most popular, due to its distinct soft flesh and sweetness.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Dith Tina on November 22 met with durian farmers and plantation owners as well as local authorities during a visit to Mak Brang commune in Kampot province’s Teuk Chhou district, according to a statement posted on the minister’s official Facebook page.

Tina encouraged the plantation owners to form a cooperative to better maintain yields and meet quality standards, as well as to increase “value-added”, or the economic value added to the crop – and products thereof – before they are made available to consumers.

“As we explained to the farmers the benefits of organising as an agricultural cooperative to create the added value and safeguard the reputation of Kampot durian, we also recommended that the General Directorate of Agriculture study [this sub-variety] to help with the preparation of documents involved in creating a cooperative and defining a geographical trade mark.

“I plan to make a modern QR-code sticker to place on the durian, to indicate the plantation’s location, type of durian, expiration dates, and the identity of the plantation’s owner.

“This will be a major convenience for consumers, providing them with the data to make informed choices, instilling trust among the people and assuaging their worries of misrepresentation of name and quality,” he said in the statement.

Khim Bunlene, owner of the “King of Durian” shops and a grower of the thorny fruit in Kampot’s Chhouk district, praised the initiative as an indication of the new minister’s focus on durian cultivation as well as building trust between growers and consumers.

“First of all, I am a durian farmer and investor, and I am very happy with the young minister’s attention to this potential durian sector,” he said. Tina is 43 years old, and was famously born on January 7, 1979, or Victory Day, the day Phnom Penh was captured from the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime.

“I believe the stickers are a superb idea, since durian origin-fraud is a real issue that’s been undermining consumer confidence and safety, jeopardising the reputations of the regions that produce the more famous varieties, such as Kampot.

“Furthermore, the move will likely be a step towards an export study. As a farmer who is invested in durian plantations, I hope the government can conduct the studies so that we can export durian to China as soon as possible, to avoid an oversaturated [local] market where farmers bewail when their durian doesn’t make it in time.

“But what I think is urgently needed is for the government to look into guaranteeing that Vietnamese and Thai durians do not freely enter the Cambodian market, especially during the local harvest, which could really hurt local farmers,” Bunlene added.

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