Golden Rice, a Cambodian rice export company, displayed the various types of jasmine rice it hopes will prove popular on the European market as it launched its first showroom in Phnom Penh yesterday.
The firm, founded with $4.5 million in seed money from the Soresum Group, a food distributor based on the French overseas territory of Reunion, aims to export 20,000 tons of rice to Europe this year, according to General Manager Chan Vuthy.
“We exported 5,000 tons of rice in 2009, mainly to France, and we have already exported about 8,000 tons of rice so far this year,” said Mr Vuthy.
Golden Rice collects its paddy from all around Cambodia and brings it to Kompong Speu province, where it is processed to meet export quality standards at a $30 million mill powered partially by a bio-mass generator, which Mr Vuthy said has the capacity to process 100,000 tons of rice a year.
Mr Vuthy said he was now trying to collectivize a group of farmers to harvest high-quality jasmine rice but did not expect any network to be fully operational for another five years.
Thon Virak, director of the government-owned rice-exporter Green Trade, said yesterday that Golden Rice was one of around twenty companies currently exporting rice, but unusual in that it owned its own mill.
“Companies typically cooperate to purchase paddy rice for export because they do not have their own high-standard milling machines,” said Mr Virak.
Mr Virak said that there was currently little competition among rice export companies because they needed to share the small number of mills capable of processing rice to export standards.
Chhong Sophal, agricultural development coordinator for the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture, said yesterday that in order for farmers to see the benefits of operations such as Golden Rice, they would have to collectivize and link with mills.
Mr Sophal said farmers would only be served by exports when they became a regular source of income.
“Milling companies take time traveling the country and buying rice when they could instead have a regular supply,” said Mr Sophal.