Saturday, July 5, 2008

Hotel Chefs Insist Cambodian Farmers Produce More Vegetables

By Soy Sophea

Chefs at luxury hotels in Cambodia urged Cambodian farmers to do their best to challenge the marketing conditions of local vegetables in order to serve more of them at high level hotels. But Farmers themselves said they need more help and technical assistance.

Ker Sokuthea, Chief at Sunway Hotel in Phnom Penh, said that the quality of vegetables produced by Cambodian farmers is not good enough compared to the vegetables imported from Vietnam.

Sokunthea, 44, who has served as a chef for 15 years, added that nowadays, among the 80 kilograms of vegetables that his Sunway Hotel uses per day, only 20 percent of them were local ones. He said he wanted to use 40% of local vegetables at his hotel in the future. And he urged Cambodian farmers to produce more vegetables to supply the market’s demand.

He said, “We really want to buy more vegetables from our local farmers, but they cannot meet our demand.”

Sokunthea explained that local suppliers cannot meet the hotel’s demand regularly. When the hotel orders much more, they are hardly able to supply the need. He added that local vegetable producers do not serve as the wholesalers and they supply just a small amount for daily use. “We need a regularly supply in terms of quality and quantity.”

He said that his Sunway Hotel buys vegetables from a wholesaler who imports from Vietnam. “The vegetables imported from Vietnam have good quality and meet our standards,” he said.

Sokunthea suggested to local farmers that in meeting the marketing challenging, they must update their techniques and improve the quality of the products, especially packaging.

“Even though our products [vegetables] are cheap to buy, at the same time the quality and quantity must also be improved,” he said.

“Hotel customers have never complained about the quality although we buy local products,” he said. “We choose good ones.”

Kuy Thy, 28, Chef at the Phnom Penh Hotel, said that he was impressed with local vegetables and they were fit to serve at a quality hotel. He said that his hotel used at least 100 kilograms of vegetables, around 80 percent of them local. He said that local vegetables now have good quality and are cheaper compared to imported products.

“We use local products because they are cheap and have good quality,” Thy said.

He added that the vegetables are taken from Kampong Cham, Kampong Speu, and Kandal provinces.

He added that he wanted to see Cambodian vegetable used at other quality star-rated hotels. He urged Cambodian farmers or anyone who wanted to invest in the area to increase the yield and quality whilst maintaining reasonable prices.

A farmer at Mean Chey district in Phnom Penh said he planted vegetables including tomatoes, cabbages and cucumbers without using chemical fertilizers in order to attract buyers. Chey Sambo, 51, who plants vegetables on a half hectare of land, said that he wanted to plant regularly to supply the demands of restaurants and hotels in Phnom Penh but due to land limitations, he cannot increase the yield.

Yang Saing Koma, President of the Cambodia Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC), said the quality and quantity of vegetables grown in Cambodia is still not good enough. He said that Cambodian farmers producing vegetables are able to supply household demands, but this was not a suitable foundation for investment.

He said that the local product does not meet domestic demand, so that more products have been imported which is normal in free markets. “We cannot blame those who import products, but farmers have to combine as groups to plant regularly, to ensure even standards of quality and quantity.”

He said that in the current situation, there is no investment in vegetables and there should be to serve people, especially the nearly two million tourists visiting Cambodia. He added that if there is investment, the quantity and quality of local vegetables will improve.

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