A MALAYSIAN-Cambodian joint venture has unveiled a new hybrid rice strain to farmers and investors in Kampong Thom province that they say will triple rice yields.
Kasekor Khmer Rongroeung Co Ltd, a partnership between agricultural consultants in Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore, introduced the hybrid rice crop on small government-owned test plots in Kampong Thom province to farmers and international investors from Singapore and the Middle East, a company official said.
Early results show potential rice yields of seven to eight tonnes per hectare, compared with two or three tonnes from traditional types of rice.
"In Cambodia, hybrid rice can fulfill local demand as well as increase opportunities for export," said Thomas Chen, chairman of SunLand Agri-tec, a Singaporean agricultural consultancy company with years of experience in hybrid rice.
Kampong Thom provincial Governor Nam Toum said farmers' incomes and yields have increased following the introduction of the hybrid strain on 5,000 hectares of land earlier this year.
"With normal paddy rice, our farmers can get only three tonnes per hectare, but now they can get as many as eight with the new hybrid," he said.
The partnership has tested several hybrid varieties to find the one best suited for Cambodia, Chen said, adding that several hybrid strains are in use throughout Southeast Asia.
Hybrids, which account for as much as 60 percent of China's rice production, are the result of selective breeding that combines varieties with the best taste, texture and resistance to disease.
The hybrid tested in Kampong Thom is said to combine the taste of basmati rice with the chewy texture of Japanese sushi rice, officials involved in the project said.
Kasekor Khmer Rongroeung conducted its provisional tests by distributing rice and fertiliser to farmers free of charge in return for a share of the crop - a strategy they hope to continue in the future.
Chen said his company hopes to begin wider production by July 2009 and that training farmers would be crucial to the success of the venture, as hybrid rice requires different methods.
The company is training students at the Cambodian Agricultural Development Institute to maximise production and soil sustainability. The students, in turn, will train area farmers.
The partnership expects wide acceptance of the new hybrid.
"Next season, we will expand the [production] area," said Louis Kek, director of Malaynesia Resources, also a member of the joint venture, who added that the project aims to grow hybrid rice on 200 hectares in Kampong Thom next year and nationwide in subsequent years.
Some 80 percent of people in Kampong Thom province farm rice on about 300,000 hectares of land, and many have already taken to the new hybrid.
Kan Salan, chief of Kampong Tmor commune in Santuk district, told the Post that farmers in his commune are happy with the hybrid harvest results.
"We are starting to collect the hybrid harvest and are happy with the yields," he said.
"We need more study of the company's technology in order to ensure increased income and yields in the future."