Amru Rice Co Ltd, a cornerstone of the Kingdom’s agricultural sector, celebrated one decade in business this week at Raffles Hotel in Phnom Penh.
Since its inception, the firm has grown to become one of Cambodia’s leading rice exporters. Amru’s 10,000 contract farmers – more than 60 percent of whom are women – participated in the export of more than 322,000 tonnes of milled rice between 2013 and 2019 to more than 30 countries, with the bulk going to the Asia-Pacific region, China and Europe.
The company was formed after the government issued its Cambodia Rice Policy in August of 2010 to gain trade benefits from the then newly enacted Everything but Arms (EBA) deal with the EU.
The policy laid out three main goals. Those were the exporting of at least 1 million tonnes of milled rice by 2015, the production of a rice surplus of at least 4 million tonnes and raising the profile of Cambodian rice on the global stage.
Mey Kalyan, one of the authors of the landmark policy, recalled the uphill battle during the dawning of Cambodia’s re-emergence as an agrarian nation after the civil war.
Kalyan shared that the Kingdom’s first mission selling rice on the international market found the Cambodian delegation spending nearly a week in the Philippines in pursuit of a purchase order, only to return home empty-handed after having invested a significant sum of money to make the pitch.
He added that Amrut’s journey from that humble beginning was reflective of the Kingdom’s growth. Both are stories of overcoming adversity to ultimately achieve success.
“Amru is a good model for Cambodian entrepreneurs. You can see how they struggled in the beginning and worked so hard to get where they are and this is not the end of their journey. There is a long way to go yet. We have something special to offer to the world and Amru is well-positioned to do that because organic rice is becoming more popular across the world,” said Kalyan, who is now senior adviser to the Supreme National Economic Council.
Saran Song, Amru’s founder and chairman, has the unique distinction of sharing his birthday with the founding of the company.
The 40-year-old entrepreneur, who is also president of the Cambodia Rice Federation, credited three factors to the firm’s success.
“First, the government rice promotion policy introduced in 2009/2010 was instrumental in us being able to succeed. Second is my family. My father, now retired, was an agronomist and my mother was a local rice seller, as was her father. Third, the EBA scheme [that initially] granted zero-tariffs for rice imported to the EU,” said Song. Tariffs on rice were later introduced after Italy, an EU member and rice producer, complained of unfair competition.
US Ambassador Patrick Murphy and Australian Ambassador Pablo Kang also addressed the crowd of some 100 people.