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Cambodia’s coffee queen

Cambodia’s coffee queen

Ngin Sim’s freshly picked coffee beans. The 45-year-old has been growing coffee for more than 15 years on her farm in Mondulkiri and recently opened a coffee shop on her property to cater to tourists.

I love coffee,” says Ngin Sim. The 45-year-old coffee farmer’s love affair with the bean started over 15 years ago when she used to sell coffee from her home in Sen Monorom. Over the years, the owner of Coffee Plantation Resort has planted four hectares of trees on a 30-hectare plot of land just outside the provincial capital.

“Some years we produce eight tonnes of coffee, other years we produce 10 tonnes,” she says. Although Ngin Sim has not yet processed this year’s crop, she is expecting a better yield than last year when she was distracted by other business concerns and did not have sufficient time to tend her trees properly.

This year the price of coffee is a healthy $2 per kilogram, but still Ngin Sim is not for selling.

“The price of coffee is high at the moment but I do not yet sell,” she says. “I hope in the near future it will be higher.”

One of seven or eight families who still grow coffee in the province, Ngin Sim explains that previously there were more.

“The farmers who went out of business lacked capital,” she says. “They did not have anyone to take care of the trees, and they did not water them enough.”

At least for Ngin Sim, business is getting better. Mondulkiri’s relatively cool weather and the quality of its red soil create ideal growing conditions. And now that the coffee is being exhibited at major trade fairs, Ngin Sim has experienced more interest from overseas, especially in Vietnam, where she exports some of her beans.

Recently Ngin Sim diversified her business.

“I started to build a coffee shop in July 2010,” she says. “I saw that more and more tourists were coming to visit my plantation.”

Each month she gets about 400 foreign tourists and 1,000 Khmer tourists.

“Sometimes they come in convoys of 10 buses, all around here is crowded with people,” she says. “Most visitors go to Busra Waterfall and when they come back they go here.” Bou Sra is one of the province’s major tourist attractions. The plantation also attracts a lot of Vietnamese who stop off en route to the border.

Now Ngin Sim is building a restaurant. Once this is completed she plans to build some bungalows for visitors to stay.

“I will do this step-by-step, just like I did with the coffee trees,” she says.

When she does open her bungalows, one thing is for sure, her customers will love waking up to the smell of a fresh cup of coffee in the morning.

TRANSLATION BY RANN REUY

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