The market for “Preah Vihear Rice” is set to make a major leap, with great potential for value-added growth, after the government on February 21 registered and granted official recognition as a “collective brand” to the rice variety associated with the northern Cambodian province, according to agricultural shareholders.
A ceremony was held to commemorate the registration, at the offices of the Preah Vihear Meanchey Union of Agricultural Cooperative (PMUAC), attended by Ministry of Commerce officials and provincial authorities.
Also at the event were representatives of producers and those from Agronomes et Veterinaires Sans Frontieres (AVSF), the French embassy, the Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD), NGOs, development partners, the private sector and other associations and communities.
“Collective brands” are intellectual property (IP) assets based on an underlying ecosystem of businesses, merchants and professionals from the same industry or geographical region that typically pool resources, share information and provide other benefits among members.
Registration of these brands is handled by the commerce ministry, which also grants ownership to a managing organisation. Goods produced or services provided by members are conventionally accompanied by a “collective mark” to distinguish them from analogues offered by non-members.
At the event, commerce ministry secretary of state Ouk Prachea confirmed that his ministry had granted ownership of the collective brand to the PMUAC, as well as the associated rights as guaranteed by the Law Concerning Marks, Trade Names, and Acts of Unfair Competition.
He said registration is a legal guarantee that will, among other things, ensure fair competition, prevent domestic and international entities from selling counterfeits or other unauthorised use of the collective mark, boost the product’s reputation and trust among buyers and end-users, and preserve the traditional knowledge and skills related to production of the commodity.
It will also spur infrastructure development in cultivation areas that could also serve the tourism market, elicit higher quality and hygienic standards for “Preah Vihear Rice”, improve its value chain, generate new jobs, and enhance the living standards of local farmers, he added.
The collective mark will not only distinguish the product churned out under the purview of the PMUAC, it will “promote the reputation and traditional culture of the Cambodian people in the international arena as well”, Prachea said.
But gaining and preserving a credible reputation for “Preah Vihear Rice” for future generations requires “real values” such as unity, honesty, integrity, good governance, transparency and accountability among the community, as well as the proper division and fulfilment of responsibilities.
Preah Vihear provincial Department of Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry director Peung Tryda told The Post on February 22 that official recognition of the rice variety as a collective brand would spell host of benefits for farmers in the northern province.
Not only will this mean international recognition and legal protections, it will also allow farmers to achieve higher selling prices and encourage more cultivation of the rice, he said.
“I hope that the acquisition of this collective mark will help drive more and more orders for ‘Preah Vihear Rice’, at higher prices, much like what happened with Kampot pepper – gaining more orders after registration, because it is a product with a guarantee of quality and its circumstances of cultivation,” Tryda said.
He shared that the total area under rice cultivation in Preah Vihear is currently nearly 100,000ha. Last year, the province produced almost 300,000 tonnes of paddy, he said, adding that quality milled rice went for an average of 1,350 riel ($0.33) per kg.
Cambodia Rice Federation president Song Saran lauded the farmers and rice-producing communities behind the latest collective mark for their dedication to growing high-quality crops, viewing the official recognition as a “source of pride”.
He shared Prachea’s sentiment that the registration would underpin honest competition, prevent product fraud and earn the trust of customers. Registration will also bring “Preah Vihear Rice” to a wider audience and foster development to increase value-added, he said.
Last year, Cambodia exported a total 617,069 tonnes of milled rice worth $418 million to 56 countries and territories, as well as 3,527,418 tonnes of paddy valued at $845.95 million, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.