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Angkor Malis: Stronger Together

Posted by James Plamondon on July 30, 2016 . 0 Comments

This is my second post on the subject of why Cambodia should use the name "Angkor Malis" as its common "quality brand" (as proposed by the Cambodia Rice Federation) and not "Phka Rumduol" (as proposed by Cambodia's Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts).

The first post was on why the Khmer name Phka Rumduol was completely unsuitable as a brand name in the English language (Lick my Pump It!).

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Angkor Malis is a good brand name because it embraces all premium Cambodian Jasmine Rice varieties, not just one variety.

Cambodians are justifiably proud that Cambodian Jasmine Rice won The Rice Trader™'s "The World's Best Rice™" competition three years in a row (2012, 2013, and 2014), and was the top-scoring jasmine rice in 2015 (with the non-fragrant Californian Calrose™ winning "The World's Best Rice" title that year).

However, they consistently overlook the fact that The Rice Trader names the winning rice by the name "Cambodian Jasmine Rice," without specifying a variety name.  Inside Cambodia, it is well-known that the winning variety was Phka Rumduol (although in 2012 Cambodia's winning sample may have been Sen Kra Op).

The problem with varieties is this: They come and go. Look at bananas. The Gros Michel variety dominated international trade until it was annihilated by a fungus, Fusarium oxysporum ("fusarium wilt"), and replaced by the fusarium-resistant Cavendish variety. Today, the Cavendish is being attacked by a new strain of fusarium wilt. A new banana variety, resistant to the new fusarium strain, will eventually replace the Cavendish.

Same with wine grapes. The phylloxera aphid wiped out French grape vineyards in the mid-1800's, with traditional grape varieties surviving only by being grafted onto phylloxera-resistant root stock.

In rice, new varieties are being developed all the time. CARDI, the Cambodian research organization that released Phka Rumduol in 1999, has developed new varieties since then, and is hard at work developing more. Therefore, we can expect that new varieties of Cambodian Jasmine Rice will be released that are even more fragrant, more flavorful, and more tender than Phka Rumduol (without being GMO).

It would be crazy to spend millions marketing the name of a particular variety, such as Phka Rumduol, when you know for a FACT that that variety will eventually be wiped out by disease or by a better-tasting alternative. That's why the clever Thais designed their Hom Malis brand to include two different varieties: KDML105 and RD15. The same brand name, Hom Malis, embraces both varieties.

The Cambodian Rice Federation took the Thai's multi-variety naming scheme one step further: It defined the brand name Angkor Malis to include any variety of Cambodian Jasmine Rice that met specified thresholds for aromatic intensity. That way, new even-more-fragrant varieties could be added the Angkor Malis brand, and old varieties dropped if they were devastated by disease. This future-proofs the Angkor Malis brand, while maintaining the highest possible level of quality.

That's very clever, indeed!

On the other hand, a brand based on the name of a single variety, such as Phka Rumduol, is the opposite of clever.

Consider this: If a new variety of pest — say, rice blast — wiped out Phka Rumduol, the way fusarium wilt wiped out Gros Michael bananas, then any money that had been invested in promoting the Phka Rumduol name would be wasted. Lost. Gone. However, if that money had been invested in promoting the Angkor Malis brand instead, then a blast-resistant (yet still maximally-fragrant) variety could be added to the Angkor Malis collective brand, preserving the value of the Angkor Malis brand.

Hence, the Angkor Malis collective branding proposed by the Cambodia Rice Federation is the correct path. Well researched, well thought-out, and well worth following.

As in my previous post on this topic, a reason offered by the Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts in support of promoting Phka Rumduol as a brand name proves to be empty. The Ministry's support of the Phka Rumduol brand name is misguided.

The Ministry should, instead, follow the lead of the Cambodia Rice Federation, and support the Angkor Malis collective brand name. Cambodia's jasmine rice varieties, like the members of its rice industry, are Stronger Together.

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