Cambodia drafts a plan to sell Kampot pepper, Siemreap Prahok and Battambang rice in world's market

Cambodia seeks special status for fermented fish cheese, pepper
Posted : Thu, 18 Oct 2007 03:11:08 GMT

Phnom Penh - Soon diners around the world may be grinding Kampot
pepper on their Siem Reap fermented fish paste and Battambang rice
after Cambodia announced it was seeking Geographic Indicator (GI)
status for five distinctive regional products. Just as only Nuernberg
can boast Nuernberger Lebkuchen - at least under the European Union
laws - and only cheese from the Cambalou caves of Roquefort-sur-
Soulzon may bear the name Roquefort, so Cambodia is seeking GI status
for five products it deems regionally unique under World Trade
Organization (WTO) guidelines.

The intellectual property rights-related legislation was required to
be put in place by the WTO after Cambodia gained membership in 2003.
The EU and the French Development Agency (AFD) helped Cambodia draw up
the legislation.

The EU provided nearly 1 million dollars and AFD donated about 100,000
dollars to help Cambodia draft the GI law and protect intellectual
property rights, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Mao Thora, undersecretary of state for the ministry, said the decision
to put forward Kampot pepper, Siem Reap prahok or fish cheese,
Battambang rice, Kampong Speu palm sugar and Banteay Meanchey silk -
products from five different provinces around the country - was an
exciting first step in establishing brands.

"When people can identify these products as from a specific area, it
will encourage both producers and tourists," he said.

The first product likely to receive GI status is Kampot pepper, named
after the coastal province 150 kilometres south-west of the capital,
he said.

"By protecting that name, growers will be encouraged to raise more
plants and investment should follow," Thora said by telephone.

Jerome Benezech of the Kampot Pepper Farmers Association (KPFA) said
GI status would be a major breakthrough but by no means the end of the
work which needs to be done.

"It will take several months to formulate policy, and then GI status
is just another marketing tool which we need to utilize," he said.
"However it's a great chance to strengthen our growers and improve ...
quality even further."

He said KPFA works with about 70 pepper farmers in one district of
Kampot and knows of at least another 80 farmers, although there are no
official figures. Kampot pepper currently retails at about 4 dollars a
kilo in local markets and is a sought-after souvenir for tourists.

Kampot pepper has been famed since French colonial times for its
pungency and flavour and is already in demand internationally.
Cambodia's fermented fish cheese connoisseurs, however, may have a
tougher marketing battle before the world clamours for prahok.