Farmers who cultivate Phka Rumduol fragrant rice have requested that the agriculture ministry help to protect the price of this variety during November’s rainy season harvest. The ministry is also pushing for increased production of Sen Kra’op fragrant rice – alongside Phka Rumduol – to meet high market demand.

In the last few years, IR and OM varieties saw soaring prices, but they have now returned to normal. The prices for the more exotic fragrant cultivars – like Phka Rumduol – are closely linked to those of the more common types. Farmers who grow Phka Rumduol are concerned that prices may drop before the next harvest.

Chean San, who cultivates the Phka Rumduol variety in Prey Veng province’s Kanh Chriech district, explained that he is only able to grow the species once per year, as it is a seasonal variety which relies on heavy rainfall. It requires far more care and attention than the IR and OM varieties, he added.

He said farmers could not produce Phka Rumduol seeds themselves, but were required to obtain them from the seed production station of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. This is done to maintain the purity and quality of the type, so as to guarantee its added value in the marketplace.

“We use a lot of capital to cultivate this variety and it requires a lot of time and energy to ensure it grows well,” he said.

“In general, it commands higher prices than IR and OM – usually by 100 to 150 riel a kilogramme higher. This meant that when the price of the lesser varieties increased, so did the price for our rice. Now that the prices for the IR and OM have dropped slightly, we are concerned that we may earn less when we harvest,” he added.

Khun Saem, president of the Ba Phnom Meanchey Agricultural Cooperative in Prey Veng province, noted that regardless of the varieties, if farmers all harvest their produce at the same time, it will lead to an over-supply, and traders will offer lower prices.

He advised the members of his community to stagger their harvest periods.

“Even though the price for Phka Rumduol may be higher, when farmers all bring it to market at the same time, its price may fall. Some farmers harvest at the same time as others, even if their rice is not fully ripened,” he said.

“I have asked the agriculture ministry and departments to educate more farmers about this, so they will not continue to harvest at the same time and encourage traders to lower prices,” he added.

He explained that three districts in the province – Svay Ontor, Kamchay Mear and Kanh Chriech – grew Phka Rumduol as it was far from water sources, and the cultivar was suited to heavy rainfall. Farmers with reliable irrigation preferred to grow the IR and OM varieties, as they could harvest them three times a year, thus earning more profit.

Lun Yeng, secretary-general of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) – the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body – told The Post that the price of Phka Rumduol rice fluctuated, depending on the harvest. However, it is usually more expensive than common rice, so when the IR and OM varieties increased in price, so did it.

The CRF reported that in the first eight months of the year, Sen Kra’op fragrant rice and Phka Rumduol accounted for over 80 per cent of the Kingdom’s rice exports, but noted that only a small number of farmers cultivated Phka Rumduol.

“Phka Rumduol rice is seasonal, with a yield that depends on rainwater. It can only be harvested once per year,” said Yeng.

He explained that Sen Kra’op commanded similar prices to Phka Rumduol, but grew well year-round in all conditions.

Agriculture minister Dith Tina recently encouraged more farmers to focus on growing premium varieties like Sen Kra’op and Phka Rumduol.

While inspecting a rice seed production facility in Battambang province on September 10, he noted that genetically pure, premium rice cultivars are certified as registered brands, and thus command higher prices.

He urged the farmers and agricultural communities of the province to pay closer attention to producing high-value varieties, in order to meet export demand.

“Choosing the Sen Kra’op and Phka Rumduol will produce [genetically] pure rice and increase profits for all. The ministry will help to foster cooperation and coordination with all other authorities – and rice mills – in order to protect their premium price points,” he said.