The crinkled face of Chhaem Out broke into a smile when asked about how much he earned from selling organic jasmine rice last year. “I earned 5 million Riels more than I did in 2015,” he proudly said.
Mr. Chhaem is a member of the Samaki Phnom Pich Borey Agriculture Cooperative who joined only last year. He worked on 8 hectares that produced 17 tons of organic white rice he sold to AMRU at $4,356. In 2015, he sold almost the same amount of produce to a middle man for $3, 060. “When I join organic project, it made a bigger difference,” he said.
Mr. Chhaem is one of the 2,500 farmers of 18 Agricultural Cooperatives in Preah Vihear who signed off for contract farming with AMRU Rice in 2016. They produced a total of 11,000tons of both organic jasmine and white rice which AMRU bought for $3.7 million, where $1.3 million was a premium over the prevailing price for commercial rice.
Mrs. Teb Komrorng, a farmer with the Satrey Ratanak Agriculture Cooperative, echoed the same joyous sentiment. She joined the production and trade of organic rice since 2014, producing around 10 tons in her 3 hectare field. She sold 9 tons to AMRU, earning her $2,880. She said, “I sold at 1,280Riels per kilo; that price is higher by 200-220Riels per kilo than what is offered by local traders. My income was only $500 before I joined the organic project against my family expense of $800 to $1000 per year. Now my income from the organic project can support my family expenses the full year.”
AMRU started working on the organic project since 2013 initially with two cooperatives. This grew to the current eighteen cooperatives and into an organic rice trade that employs 13,000 people. Farmers also benefit from the savings-and-loan and farm machinery rental services which came from their cooperatives’ investment into financing and machinery using earnings from the rice trade.
“AMRU group’s business is conducted with strong ethics in corporate social responsibility and investing in farmers. We make an honest assessment and not just talk, our measure is whether we made a difference in farmer’s lives and positive social changes in communities we work with,”said Song Saran, AMRU’s Chairman.