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Researchers Look To Grow Basmati Rice

Cambodian farmers already grow 37 different types of rice, but starting next year they may add another, to please the palates of buyers in the Middle East.

Ouk Makara, director of the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute, said researchers will try planting basmati rice, a species that is less sticky than typical Cambodian rice, and less suited to Cambodia’s environment.

Government agricultural researchers will work with the International Rice Research Institute, with support from the Australian government, to find ways to grow basmati rice.

The attempt follows a recent visit by high-level officials from the United Arab Emirates, who wanted to see basmati exported to the Persian Gulf, Ouk Makara said.

Basmati rice is typically grown in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan, and its cultivation was tried and abandoned for poor yields in Cambodia in the 1990s.

However, with Cambodia producing just 7 million tons of rice last year, and only 3 million tons for export, and with food demand increasing in places like the Middle East, Cambodian farmers may try again.

Pou Puy, president of the Cambodian Federation of Rice Miller Association, said some Middle Eastern countries may also need other high-quality Cambodian rice. In 2010 Cambodia will be able to meet their needs, he said.