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Hi-tech rice mill eyes export market

Hi-tech rice mill eyes export market

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A new state-of-the-art rice mill aims to bring the Kingdom's rice export capacity

into the 21st century by specializing in the production of chemical-free, organic

rice.

The clean lines of Cambodia's new rice mill near Phnom Penh.

Located in Ang Snuol District 15 kilometers west of Phnom Penh, the new Angkor Prosperous

Agriculture Company's (APA) rice mill will be able to process 10 tons of rice an

hour and is aiming to export at least 45,000p tons of organic Cambodian rice to world

markets by the end of 2002.

"We will bring good quality rice to the world. Our country will become famous

for this," enthused APA Vice-President Chieu Hieng.

The rice mill, due to open in June, specializes in processing the indigenous neang

malis rice variety that Hieng is having grown using what he says are completely organic

agricultural methods.

"We forbid our farmers from using chemicals of any kind. We don't want them,"

Hieng said, adding that while boosting productivity such chemicals negatively affect

rice quality and the capacity of natural fertilizers present in the soil.

More importantly, Hieng says there is big money in marketing organic rice to increasingly

chemical-wary foreign markets, with organic rice getting up to triple the price of

chemically-grown rice in Vietnam and Thailand.

Reeling off a list of prospective importers, including Canada, the US, Kuwait and

Australia, Hieng says the time for organic Cambodian export rice has come.

Hieng's plan has been enthusiastically received by Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh,

who says he encourages the development of chemical-free produce for export.

To help foster the Kingdom's nascent green agricultural industry Prasidh said his

ministry would not impose export license charges for such produce.

"Cambodia's rice production capabilities are poor compared to other countries,

but we can beat them by exporting chemical free products," Prasidh said.

Hieng already has plans for the sowing of more than 40,000 hectares of agricultural

land with neang malis rice seed in Kampong Speu, Kampot, Takeo and Kandal.

APA provides free rice seed to participating farmers and guarantees that it will

buy the harvested rice at a minimum price of 500 riels per kilo, considerably higher

than the 250 - 300 riels per kilo they get now.

In order to ensure that all APA rice is certifiably chemical-free, Hieng requires

his farmers to form rice associations that are charged with enforcing quality regulations.

A plot of land located in front of the rice mill is being used to test the suitability

of other rice varieties, which like neang malis have been selected for their compatibility

with Cambodia's sandy soil.

Hieng hopes that APA will help to revive Cambodia's rice export industry, which by

the late 1960 was supplying more than two million tons of rice to foreign markets

annually.

Equally important, he says, is re-acquainting Cambodians with the taste of quality

indigenously grown rice that for more than two decades has been supplanted by Thai

rice.

"Cambodians are missing the flavor of Cambodian-grown rice," Hieng said.

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