At an event designed to showcase Cambodian products, local entrepreneurs implored the Ministry of Commerce on Monday to do more than just one-off shows to help them contend with fierce competition from importers of foreign goods.
The central message delivered to the ministry at Monday’s launch of the “Buy Khmer Products” campaign in Phnom Penh was to take concrete actions to get Cambodian products to the front of supermarket and mart displays.
“Currently, we have seen that the display of our Cambodian products for sale is very limited,” said Keo Mom, president of Cambodia Women Entrepreneurs Association.
“When we take our products to sell at supermarkets and mini-marts, in some places, they discriminate [against] our Khmer products a lot.”
Ms. Mom said the ministry needed to tackle two key problems: a perception among supermarket owners that consumers view Cambodian products as inferior and the large fees required to secure premium placements for their goods at such retailers.
“It is not abusing free market economy principles, but it is encouragement for domestic producers, as many Khmer products are still unable to be recognized,” she said of efforts to promote local products at a discount.
“With support from the government, we hope that supermarkets could agree with that.”
Sok Ly, deputy export director at dried fruit manufacturer Kirirom Food Production, said that Cambodian products could compete with foreign imports on quality, but that the government needed to take “aggressive measures” to tackle the negative reputation of local produce.
“For example, let them recognize and believe that Khmer products are safe, [high] quality and hygienic even though they buy or do not buy them, but later on they will buy,” Ms. Ly said.
Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak said he would meet with supermarkets, hotels and restaurants to discuss ways to get Cambodian products more prominent placement “very soon.”
“I think that in order to promote more consumption of our Khmer products, it is important to push the service sector, including hotels, supermarkets and associations so that [people] will use them,” he said. “We want to help local producers.”
Sreat Mom Sophear, director of travel agency Sophiya Travel and Tours, said the ministry needed to examine a raft of issues that were putting Cambodian producers at a disadvantage.
“Firstly, we have seen that most imported products are less expensive because of the looseness of importing. Sometimes, importers pay little or no taxes, while our domestic production is smaller and so the costs are high, resulting in more expensive sales of local products,” he said.
“At the supermarkets, sometimes, our Khmer products are displayed in the back corners,” he added. “So, it is good that the Commerce Ministry will negotiate with those supermarkets and marts nationwide.”