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Top rice exporter gets more hi-tech

(Khmer Times, July 22, 2020)

Amru Rice (Cambodia), one of the country’s leading rice exporters, has scaled up its BlocRice technology project to 500 households in two communities in Preah Vihear province.

BlocRice project phase I had 50 household farmers in one agricultural community in Preah Vihear province. The project, a first in the Kingdom because of its usage of blockchain technology, was launched in April 2018 as a pilot programme that ended in March 2019. Its goal is to ensure farmers can sell their products at a higher price and it also enables the source of food to be identified.

The BlocRice pilot involved relevant actors in the rice supply chain with 50 farmers from the Reaksmei cooperative, rice exporter AmruRice, rice-cake producer SanoRice and Oxam Novib and Schullelaar & Partners.

After a successful pilot, demonstrating the use case and providing farmers with a digital identity, the partners decided to upscale the project to a commercially viable level, involving more farmers and providing a direct link with consumers.

The first phase was also involved in the research phase determining the living income benchmark and good agriculture practices plus technological needs. The project also monitors the progress of rice farmers towards a living income; improves farm income from rice and from other sources as a result of technical assistance and extension services; reduces operational costs through farmers’ cooperatives and gives farmers a digital identity and voice in the supply chain as well as increasing transparency in the supply chain. Retailers and consumers have real-time insight in the rice supply chain for enhanced social auditing.

“Let’s talk about agri-tech and how financial technology could be part of it. A lot of people are talking about Blockchain, big data, the internet of things (IOT), the Industrial Revolution 4.0, Smart Agriculture etc. Here we make things work by utilising Blockchain technology. It is called BlocRice phase II,” said Kann Kunthy, vice-president of Amru Rice (Cambodia).

BlocRice mainly focuses on trust, transparency and traceability. Kunthy added that in phase I, the team piloted with one agricultural cooperative (AC) with 50 households and now it is scaling up to two ACs with 500 households.

“Our goal is to utilise Blockchain technology for millions of households not only in rice but all agricultural crops. Local tech firms or individuals with block chain knowledge and expertise would be part of the future (localisation),” Kunthy said, adding that it is only possible if farmers and ACs are organised and integrated, turning them from seasonal farmers to commercial and professional farmers who are market-oriented.

“The digital infrastructure can only perform given that the physical infrastructure can support [be it logistics, transportation, post-harvest management, storage and delivery],” Kunthy added. “The ultimate goal is to train and educate ACs to become ‘agri-preneurs’.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen told farmers in Prey Kabbas district, Takeo province, yesterday that the agriculture sector must be aligned with the Industrial Development Policy 2015-2025 is to attract more foreign investment to work on processing in Cambodia.

He said that Cambodia has put a strong effort into the building of silos, warehouses and rice milling machinery. He added that Cambodia will take $400 million from China to build warehouses for paddy across the country. He is also considering lowering the electricity tariff for farmers and the agriculture sector in general and also building more physical infrastructure to support farmers.

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