“Quality,quality,quality is a must”

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The VP of Golden rice cambodia on Winning the “Best Rice” award and how it happened

Golden Rice Cambodia (GRC), one of the Kingdom’s leading rice millers and exporters, won the “World’s Best Rice” award for 2012 on behalf of Cambodia at the World Rice Conference held in Bali, Indonesia on Sept. 26-28.

The meeting, one of the industry’s major events, gathered over 400 delegates from more than 40 rice-exporting countries. Three samples of Cambodia’s two premier fragrant rice varieties and one premier white variety were submitted by 20 Cambodian exporters for competition. The winning entry was the Cambodian jasmine rice, Grade A, 100 percent unbroken, from Golden Rice Cambodia.

To get a fuller view on how and why Cambodian jasmine rice was selected as the World’s Best Rice and why the prize went to GRC, Economics Today sat down recently with the company’s vicepresident, David Sok, for an exclusive interview.

Q. What does winning this title mean to you?

A. First, we were honored to have been selected from among Cambodia’s rice exporters and to have been able to submit a sample of our jasmine rice. Then, it was great news that we won the prize representing Cambodia. We’re proud to be able to spearhead efforts to make Cambodian rice known around the world for its quality.

Q. What about GRC distinguishes it from other rice millers and exporters and enabled it to win this award?

A. I can’t really speak for other companies, but for us, I can tell you that winning the prize was a collective effort. We have a methodology and a culture of quality throughout the value chain, which will be certified by the implementation of ISO 9001 standards by the end of this year. Specifically, we have great teams that can source the best paddy and great procurement people who can choose the best machines and equipment. They work in tandem with great engineers who can put together efficient and effective production lines. Our operations team knows how to use the production lines to the best and how to maintain them and our quality control team ensures that everything is up to specification. Of course, this is organized and supported thanks to teams that work at the office, from admin and human resources to accounting and sales. Our sales team’s job has been made easier with the prize and the recognition it brings!

Q. How much jasmine rice is producedannually in the country?

A.It is estimated almost 1 million tons of jasmine rice paddy grows in Cambodia, compared to a total of 8 million tons of paddy. Jasmine rice grows well in the northeast but also south of the Tonle Sap Lake and in Kampong Speu province, where our factory is located, and in the southeast. Most jasmine rice is exported.

Q. What kind of soil, water, climate and fertilizer suit the growth of jasmine rice?

A.Cambodia’s climate and its fertile plains are ideal for jasmine rice. Thailand’s is, too. Natural fertilizers are better and since our farmers use traditional ways of growing,fertilizers in Cambodia are mostly natural. Our regional neighbors who are more industrially advanced have easier access to chemical fertilizers.

Q.  What will this award mean for GRC?

A. It’s great that our customers can say they buy the best rice in the world! For GRC, it is a tremendous honor and it will motivate our team to continue to strive for quality. This makes our sales pitch shorter: we have the best rice in the world!

Q. Will this award help Cambodia reach the government’s target of exporting 1 million tons of milled rice per year beginning in 2015?

A. Yes! I don’t see why it wouldn’t accelerate growth, but we Cambodian exporters have to be careful and make sure we continue to provide quality for our clients.

Q. Could you describe how GRC has contributed to Cambodia’s economic development?

A.Our success has enabled us to grow. We doubled our production capacity twice since we were founded, and we can now process more than 200,000 tons of paddy per year. This creates jobs. Now, we are pretty selective in our recruitment process and we train our employees well, so we are creating skilled positions. Our production lines areengineered in Cambodia, with top-quality components from Japan, and a lot of the mechanical components are made from scratch here. Beyond the great technicians and operators, our ecosystem is made up of welders and construction workers but also civil engineers, electrical engineers and mechanical engineers. It is always amazing to see projects go from AutoCAD to reality, and everything that happens in between. By increasing production, we’ve provided more outlets to farmers for their products. Our sourcing system is methodological and strict, so we hope we contribute to improving the quality of the upstream value chain. Also, in volume, if we consider that the average farmer produces one ton of paddy per year, we can say that we integrate more than 200,000 farming families into our system. Downstream, more volume means more bags, more containers and more trucks, so we hope the Cambodian economy develops this way, too. We’re already seeing more interest in supplying rice bags, but also more shipping companies are creating offices in Cambodia instead of only having representative agents. I also hope the banking sector will have great offerings for the agribusiness community such as financing for paddy or machinery.

Q. How do you see Cambodia’s agricultural sector developing in the next five or 10 years?

A.  I hope that more milled rice will beexported from Cambodia, compared to the paddy surplus. This requires production capacity, so Golden Rice will grow and we hope continue to lead the industry. For other crops, we hope more processing is done in Cambodia instead of having raw materials shipped out of the country. This would add value to the domestic economy. Regarding livestock, self-sufficiency would be a great goal to attain.

Q.  Do you think Cambodia will become one of the world’s leading riceexporting nations in the future?

A.  Thailand and Vietnam export around 7 million tons each, and Myanmar has a lot of capacity—it was once the world’s biggest rice exporter. But if we can reach 1 million tons, that would be great! But in order to succeed, Cambodian rice exporters need to continue getting organized. The Federation of Cambodian Rice Exporters (FCRE) is being officially launched in December with more than 100 members. Our agenda is to promote Cambodian rice throughout the world, but also find ways to reduce operational costs in order to be competitive.There is always the possibility to become the world’s best, but quality, quality, quality is a must.

Q.  Anything else you’d like to add?

A.  I would like to warmly thank IFC (the International Finance Corporation, a subsidiary of the World Bank), which has given great technical assistance to the Cambodian rice exporter community. IFC has done a great job training and organizing different promotion efforts. Export promotion is only one of IFC’s contributions, they also help with seed quality and milled rice standards. They help throughout the value chain.