Noodle factory opening new market for rice

A worker at Cambodia’s first noodle factory
A worker at Cambodia’s first noodle factory. Heng Chivoan

Noodle factory opening new market for rice

A new rice noodle venture is filling restaurant spring rolls in the West while pushing the value of Cambodian’s broken rice north

In the competitive world of Cambodian rice, Amru Rice is consistently among the leading exporters, ranking second for the first nine months of this year, with more than 34,450 tonnes, or 13 per cent of the Kingdom’s rice exports for that period.

This year marks a new venture for Amru, with the opening of Cambodia’s first industrial-scale noodle factory. The new facility will add value to Cambodia’s lower graded rice – used to make the noodles – and exports to Europe and the US are already locked in, according to Song Saran, the 33-year-old chief executive officer of Amru Rice Group.

“In the past, we sold broken rice at a low price and we always worry about the market demand,” he said  “But now, we don’t have worry about it anymore. By having this new production [of noodles], we can add a value of about $100 per tonne to our broken rice,” Saran added.

Located in Kampong Speu province, the 3,000 square metre factory cost $700,000 to build and fit out with equipment imported from Japan. Employing 50 people, production of Cambodian noodles began this month, and the first shipment is destined for France in January.

Saran said that recent test samples of his noodles sent to France and the US, via existing relationships he has with rice buyers, proved a hit among a small group of restaurateurs looking to add Cambodian noodles to their menu. “Our product is intended to meet the demand for restaurant appetisers,” he said. “There is an increasing trend of eating spring rolls or wontons as a starter.”

CEO Song Saran
CEO Song Saran. Heng Chivoan

According to Saran, about 10 per cent of rice that comes from his mills is broken rice, which fetches about $440 per tonne. Amru will use the broken rice to produce its noodles, which Saran says will be exported for about $500 to $540 per tonne.
Amru will ship its first container to France next month, with another half-container scheduled for the US shortly thereafter.

Mey Kalyan, senior adviser for the Supreme National Economy Council, said the new facility was an important example of the enhanced production that is needed in Cambodia’s rice industry.

“Whenever we invest to produce more from our raw materials for higher value-add, it’s a great move,” Kalyan said.

Although small-scale, the new factory should be a reminder to others in the industry of the need to diversify, said independent economist Srey Chanthy.

The opportunities to vary rice-based products will become available if efforts to strengthen the image are enhanced, the independent economist added.

“There will be more Cambodian products processed from rice available on the international market in the near future,” he said.

For now, Amru’s noodle factory produces between 200 to 300 tonnes per month, but Saran expects to ramp that up to about 700 tonnes.

“Then I believe that my enterprise can buy broken rice from other rice millers who don’t have the ability to export,” he said.

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