A week in Phnom Penh: the call of Cambodia
A group of French journalists has just left for a week to discover this country in Southeast Asia in full development and overflowing with energy. We were.
Episode 1. Despite an eight-hour delay due to a missed transfer in Hong Kong (thanks Cathay Pacific!), we are immersed right out of Phnom Penh airport in the heart of the bustle of the city. Time to reach the Penh House Hotel, a stone's throw from the royal palace, and here we are seated in the company of Dr Hay Ly Eang, owner of the place and above all creator and developer of Confirel, the first certified agri-food company. "Our specialty is palm sugar, explains the cheerful Khmer entrepreneur, in perfect French. We focus on bio and organic. The problem is that in your country, it is confused with palm oil which has a very bad image because of deforestation! ".
It must be said that this palm sugar is used in all sauces by Confirel, both to make chocolate (with cocoa made in Cambodia) and to make aperitif drinks such as the Champagne method. "Our other flagship product is the famous Kampot pepper, considered the best in the world, continues the affable Dr. Hay Ly Eang. Our pepper is of course organic and labeled by Ecocert for Europe, JAS for Japan and USDA for the United States”. A pioneering company, Confirel is above all a fight for its creator, also a pharmacist and builder of the first pharmaceutical laboratory in the country. "We must transform our agriculture into organic quality products with high added value, he points out, to allow the peasants to live better. The challenge is essential, to develop the campaign on a responsible model to reduce the growing gap with the urban world. We must not forget that the poverty of the countryside favored the accession of the Khmer Rouge to power”.
Garden of Eden
In Cambodia, the food industry is a sector with a future where everything remains to be done. Mango, one of the flagship products, is exported in all its forms (rolls, soups, etc.) and the Mekong (which the country shares in particular with its imposing neighbors Thailand and Vietnam) is a Garden of Eden where all fruits and vegetables grow at will. The lands flooded by monsoon rains that we saw from the plane around the delta will still be a little more fertile once the water recedes. "Reducing Cambodia's food dependency, which the Covid crisis has highlighted, has become a priority for the government, explains Emmanuel Scheffer, a Frenchman who has been living in Phnom Penh for a long time and who organized the trip with his agency BMC (Beyond Media Cambodia). They have everything they need, rich lands and quality products. Everything is to be done. “Like all the others, the agricultural sector is open to foreign investors, particularly in technologies to improve the supply chain and increase the distribution of agricultural products in foreign markets.