Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon on August 9 urged farmers across the country to increase the cultivation of fragrant rice to promote the industry in the Kingdom.

“Fragrant rice plays an important role in the rice industry in Cambodia. Fragrant rice accounted for 56.6 per cent of total rice exports in 2016, of which Phkar Romduol made up 32 per cent. It indicated that fragrant rice is becoming very popular on the international market,” he said.

However, he said Cambodia’s long-grain Sen Kra Ob rice can only be grown once a year in the rainy season, which limits its market potential somewhat.

They said that in 2013, they recommended that the Agricultural Research and Development Institute of Cambodia (CARDI) begin development of non-seasonal fragrant rice types by creating a hybrid between Romduol and fragrant rice from China.

As part of a series of experiments, 100 fragrant rice varieties were selected by farmers to be planted in both the dry and rainy seasons according to their geographical conditions in order to monitor how they fared.

Sakhon added that in 2017 – with the co-sponsorship of the Australian government through the Cambodia Agricultural Value Chain Programme – CARDI expanded its research experiments in various agricultural fields in Prey Veng, Siem Reap and Battambang provinces.

“As a result, three well-performing [rice varieties] were selected for incubation experiments on 40 farmers’ rice fields in Prey Veng province,” he said

In the rainy season of 2021, another 40 farmers’ rice fields will host these adaptation experiments in Prey Veng province, including 25 experiments conducted by CARDI and 15 experiments conducted by the Cambodian Rice Federation.

The data obtained will be analysed and then the best [types of rice] will be determined and promoted among Cambodia’s farmers.

CARDI director Lor Bunna told The Post that in 2019, his institute provided farmers with the rice variety called Sen Kra Ob 01 (SKO-01). Currently, the SKO-01 variety is spreading in total area of cultivation across the Kingdom.

“This rice variety provides high yields, nice fragrance and good quality rice that is long, smooth and soft. It is delicious rice. It should do well among the high-value varieties of rice in the national and international markets,” he said.

According to Bunna, SKO-01 is a newly-released short-term cultivar that can be grown at any time and require between 100 and 115 days to reach maturity. It can be harvested in amounts of up to four to five tonnes per hectare, depending on how well cared for the crops are and with the application of fertilisers determined according to the recommended technical standards.

However, this kind of rice variety is less resistant to diseases and pests – especially stem borers and palm weeds – which means that it requires additional screening and spraying of pesticides to prevent those problems.