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Poivre et sucre, la palme d'or du Cambodge

Pepper and sugar, the golden palm of Cambodia

Kampot pepper and palm sugar from Kampong Speu will be labeled. This recognition is already raising great hopes among producers in these two provinces.

If we have known for a long time the quality of palm sugar from Kampong Speu or that of Kampot pepper, their notoriety generally stops at the borders of the kingdom. This injustice will soon be repaired thanks to the stamping for these two products of a geographical indication (GI) certificate. A label synonymous with quality and which can allow a better positioning of these products on the markets.

Generally, a GI combines the place of origin of the products with specifications and a control system. For a GI to be recognized, national legislation must contain provisions to this effect and consumers must recognize it. This will soon be the case with the recent selection of pepper and palm sugar. The launch of a study allowing their recording under this label is also planned. The decision was taken last month after several meetings between the Ministries of Trade and Agriculture, the French Development Agency

(AFD) and Ecap I (EC-Asean International Property Rights Cooperation Programme). Mao Thora, Under-Secretary of Commerce, said on one such occasion that the French government had provided 800,000 euros (about $1,160,000) through AFD to launch a pilot project for these two products. The full process is expected to take two years before they are officially added to the international list of GIs, a first for the country.

It is in particular the Research and Technological Exchange Group (GRET) that takes care of the procedures. Jean-Marie Brun, a specialist in agriculture and rural development at GRET, explains that the two ministries concerned, in collaboration with GRET and CEDAC (Cambodian Center for Agricultural Studies and Development), supported the implementation implementation of this project which is now on track. “ What we are going to do is mobilize the producers and the other players in these sectors to prepare the specifications ”, indicates the expert. During this process, it is first necessary to define a technical framework proving that palm sugar from Kampong Speu has specific qualities compared to its competitors thanks to factors such as the climate or the soil of the region concerned. It will then be necessary to define a control mechanism and clear specifications in order to guarantee the quality and origin of these regional products and to meet the required criteria. The next step will be to apply for GI registration in due form after the Permanent Geographical Indication Commission of the Ministries of Commerce and Agriculture. This commission will in particular call on experts in pepper and palm sugar in particular, who will have to decide on and validate the specifications, the quality control procedure, the geographical criteria, the history of the products in relation to their traditional production in the regions concerned, etc. But in addition to this technical part, the process requires a specific legal framework. A bill to this effect is being prepared by the Ministry of Commerce. It must then be submitted to the Council of Ministers, then to the National Assembly. “We are currently preparing the ground, resumes Jean-Marie Brun. At the same time, the legal framework will gradually be put in place and I think that by 2009, we will be ready to register the first GIs from Cambodia. »

Increase in crop prices

Even if it will take another two years before the project becomes a reality, the news is already delighting local farmers and producers who see it as an additional godsend. Nguon Lay, a farmer representing the association of pepper producers in Angkor Chay I village, Kampot province, is delighted to have been recently warned by his buyer that he would see the price of his next harvest increase. “In 2000, a kilo of pepper cost 25,000 riels, or about six dollars, then the price dropped year after year to just one dollar per kilo, because our pepper was only sold in local markets as well as in Vietnam, he says. However, a short time ago, my wholesaler promised me that he would buy my next crops for six dollars a kilo. I think this news could well spell the end of work in many rice fields. In fact, at this rate, cultivating and selling one hundred pepper vines is equivalent to the profit generated by working the rice field over a year. »

As for Chub Bunthoeun, harvesting palm sap for the Confirel company in the province of Kampong Speu, he said he was not aware of this good news, knowing only that Confirel wanted more quantity for his next harvest of January. "This time, she is asking us to provide 5,000 liters of palm juice, compared to the usual 1,000 liters" , he explains, adding that his association of 20 farming families has been supplying Confirel for three years with palm juice. webbed. “Today, my family's situation is much better than before. Now, my income varies between 200,000 and 300,000 riels per month [50 to 75 dollars). And in addition, I have free time during the day to take care of my oxen and my rice field because the company comes to take the juice every morning at 7 am. The registration of Cambodian products under a GI label will make it possible to find them on the shelves of major international markets, and to make the kingdom's culture and civilization better known. Gourmets and connoisseurs will thus be able to appreciate the specificity of the unique tastes of Kampot pepper and palm sugar from Kampong Speu. “This is a great victory for our local economy, because our regional products have not yet reached foreign markets. This will allow citizens from all over the world to know our specialties, first pepper and sugar, and why not later prahok (fermented poison paste), rice and other products” , says Hay Ly Eang, CEO of Confirel, adding that this initiative is a unique opportunity for Cambodian producers to promote their products around the world.

The Ministry of Commerce has promised to do its best to ensure that other Cambodian products eventually bear the GI label. Some, which may in the future be the subject of a geographical indication, have already been identified: rice from Battambang, cardamom from Pursat, silk from Phnom Srok (in the province of Banteay Meanchey) and prahok produced in Siem Reap , as part of the One village, one product project.

Ros Dina

Cambodia Soir Hebdo, n°9, November 29, 2007

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