Despite thinning support and a rough year for the rice industry, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s son-in-law has been re-elected to lead the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), an official said on Sunday.
The industry association has also finally agreed on a common export brand, “Angkor Malis,” in an effort to expand the reach and recognition of Cambodia’s premium rice.
Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks to exhibitors next to Cambodia Rice Federation president Sok Puthyvuth (center) at the Cambodia Rice Forum in January. In a speech at the forum, Mr. Hun Sen said that the country’s rice sector had suffered due in part to strong competition from regional neighbors, and said that increased investment was needed to boost exports. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)CRF members gathered at the Sofitel hotel in Phnom Penh on Saturday to elect the federation’s head and discuss the state of the industry, said CRF secretary-general Moul Sarith.
Sok Puthyvuth received 113 of 192 votes, earning his second two-year term as the federation’s president—but the winning total was down about 20 percent from the previous election, Mr. Sarith said.
Mr. Puthyvuth’s top rival, Te Taingpor, head of the Federation of Associations for Small and Medium Enterprises of Cambodia, received 79 votes, tripling his previous tally, he added.
Mr. Puthyvuth, the son of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and the CEO of local conglomerate Soma Group, became the first CRF president when the federation was formed two years ago.
At the top of the agenda for the industry body’s second term is coordinating rice for export under the new brand name, Mr. Sarith said.
“We have won prizes for best rice in the world, but we have many types and they are little-known in overseas markets. So we have to create a clear brand with a logo, policies for its use, standards and categories.”
The government had aimed to export 1 million tons of processed rice in 2015, but fell well short of the goal, and this year’s drought has only made the situation worse.
Sun Pov, president of the Svay Meanchey Setrey Samaki Agriculture Development Community in Kompong Chhnang province, said she had voted for Mr. Puthyvuth again but would “wait and see” if his performance met expectations.
“During the previous term, the community didn’t see many benefits, like receiving seeds or funds from the federation,” she said. “But let’s wait and see this term. If it is still like that, I will no longer support the federation and withdraw our membership.”
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