Kompong Speu province palm sugar, awarded a geographic indication by the government in April, is set for increased overseas export despite limited capacity and poor production methods, traders said yesterday.
Chhon Ravuth, general manager of the beverage maker Confirel, a buyer and exporter of palm-produced products in Cambodia, said his company was looking for new markets to sell GI Kompong Speu sugar even though it was little known to the outside world.
“We are searching for markets…in Japan and Korea,” he said. “Buyers don’t know about GI Kompong Speu sugar like they do organic sugar.”
A geographic indication certifies that product comes from a particular location and may possess certain qualities or enjoy an enhanced reputation.
Last year, Confirel exported 14 tons of organic sugar and four tons of GI Kompong Speu palm sugar to France, Malaysia, Australia, and the US, Mr Ravuth said, while planning to buy 13 tons of GI palm sugar and 23 tons of organic sugar for local supply in 2011.
“We plan to export about 10 tons of GI palm sugar in 2011 while exporting 70 percent of local organic sugar,” he said, adding that there was high demand for Kompong Speu palm sugar but that farmers could not keep up.
“Some farmers lack the technique to make high-standard product at an efficient pace, but we continue to try to teach them how,” Mr Ravuth said. “The number of producers who can produce good sugar is small and they are only able to produce 30 to 40 tons” per year.
Som Saroeun, director of the Kompong Speu Palm Sugar Association, acknowledged that only 80 of his 172 members were capable of producing sugar to high standards.
“We taught them how to produce good sugar but they don’t pay attention,” he said. For example, “they need to have clean hands while producing. They don’t care about quality, just quantity.”
El Lep, the deputy director of the Kompong Chhnang-based Development and Appropriate Technology organization, which trains farmers to grow and market palm sugar, said it was important to find ways to promote local sugar in the domestic market.
“Our main objective is make local palm sugar known at home and abroad,” he said. “Not that we care who buys the product, we just want a market for our farmers.”