Cambodian Variety of Rice Prevents Disease, Study Finds

A recent scientific study has found Cambodia’s Somaly rice strain to be “greatly helpful to human health,” and may help in­crease the country’s international rice exports.

Scientists at the University Ke­bang­saan Malaysia analyzed the Cam­bodian rice and determined the intake of about 20-30 grams of Somaly per day can help reduce the risk of certain diseases, in­clu­ding heart disease and cancer, of­fi­cials said.

The risk of constipation, hemorrhoids and other digestive tract diseases may also be reduced,  said associate professor Dr No­ri­mah A Karim, who conducted the experiment.

Karim compared the nutrient contents specifically for fiber, calcium and iron, and discovered the Cambodian rice had more nu­tri­tional value than several strains of Malaysian rice.

Cambodian officials welcomed the report, saying it would be good for Cam­bodia’s exports. Eang So­phal­leth, personal assistant to Prime Minister Hun Sen, called the discovery “great news.”

“First, it’s a boost to national pride for Cambodia that they found out our rice could help re­duce and prevent risks of certain forms of diseases, including cancer and heart disease. And second, this result can help commercially promote the marketing of our rice when there’s such recognition of international standards in terms of the quality,” Eang So­phal­leth said.

The Somaly rice should be pa­tented by Cambodia, just as jasmine rice is in Thailand, Eang So­phal­leth said.

“This is our property; it shouldn’t be copied for others to grow on their own,” he said. Thai rice growers have recently be­come concerned that US growers may start planting jasmine rice.

Somaly is one of three Cam­bo­di­an varieties considered best suited for export to international markets. The other two are Neang Menh and Phkar Khnhei.

Somaly is popular because its grains are not rough, it is digested easily, and it has a subtle, plea­sant odor.

An official for Malimex, a local rice export company, said the study will help the company boost rice exports to Malaysia and other countries.

The company is planning to export 15,000 tons of Somaly rice to Malaysia in 2002, compared with 7,000 tons last year and 700 tons in 1999, the official said.

Malimex is encouraging the growth of Somaly rice nationwide. Its natural growing areas are in Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces.

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