The biggest impediment to a flourishing Cambodian rice industry is Cambodians not trusting one another Cambodian journalist and media owner Soy Sopheap, the managing director of DAP Media Centre, says.
“Be honest, and you can be successful,” he says. “The local businessmen must be honest or they will not be successful. If they are not successful, don’t blame the government.”
Whether it’s Khmer people dealing with foreigners or dealing with other Khmers, Soy Sopheap says the critical factor is to be honest in their dealings.
“That is the most important single thing for the future. If local businessmen make a deal with foreigners, then later break their word, this reflects poorly on all of us. Don’t do it,” he says.
“Local businessmen must be honest with their partners, not only foreigners, but also Khmer and Khmer.”
Soy Sopheap has been reporting on the development of Cambodia’s rice industry through his DAP website, a radio station and a three-times-a-week Khmer news-paper, Deumampil News.
His website, www.DAP-news.com gets 200,000 visitors a day, mostly local Cambodians and Cambodians living abroad.
Soy says it wasn’t until August 17 last year, when Prime Minister Hun Sen first articulated his rice strategy to export one million tonnes in 2015 that things began to take shape. Prior to that, he had set up the Golden Rice Ass-ociation after attending meetings in support of farmers and using the radio to get the information out.
“Since last year, all the private sector, including banks and businessmen, have been working very hard on Hun Sen’s rice vision.
“The EU gives exemptions for Cambodia to export the rice. The Chinese signed an agreement with Cambodia this year to export agriculture products to China and many others, so, the people are now hoping they will get a high income from the rice.”
Soy tells farmers that the rice mill belongs to the farmers, and that the farmers belong to the rice-mill owners.
“We have to work with each other. We have 2.4 million hectares of rice fields in Cambodia. We are not short of food.”
Soy visited Vietnam and spoke to a rice expert who said that if Cambodia had a good strategy and could get high production from the paddies, especially from the provinces around the Tonle Sap, Cam-bodia could export 10 million tonnes of rice a year.
“This is for the future for Cambodia: to have a strategy for enough irrigation, seeds and fertiliser, and if banks can give the loans and infrastructure, we can do it.
“But before we can export the rice, we have to have at least two or three more rice mills in Cambodia.
“Now Cambodia must do the same as Vietnam and Thailand, which have good networks for the farmers, and they give loans to the farmers.
Soy says the government was wrong when it banned the export of paddy to neighboring countries until Cam-bodia had enough mills in place to do all its own milling.
“We need three of four more rice mills, and the private sector must get loans too,” he says.
“We have a rice policy from A to Z. We need to develop how banks can work with rice mills, how they can work with farmers and we need to make that connection.
“If I’m a farmer, I don’t want to worry. I want to know I have a market for my product.”
Soy was recognised in April this year with an award for best online newspaper.
“I always criticise corrupt officials on TV. I don’t have any support behind me, I’m not pro any political party. Ninety per cent of our income is from advertisers on our website.”