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In Long Beach, Rice from the Homeland

Cambodian rice bags at a store in Long Beach, California.
Cambodian rice bags at a store in Long Beach, California.

Sopheak Real loves rice. Now, thanks to some new initiatives in his native Cambodia, the Fresno, California, elementary school teacher can buy rice from his homeland.

“It’s not much different from other rice,” Sopheak Real said recently. “In fact, it tastes even better. My son had three bowls.”

Cambodian rice producers say they hope to find more and more customers like him.

Two companies are now importing rice from Cambodia: Angkor International, LLC, and the Imperial Rina Group, IRG. The former sells 50-lb. bags costing around $30, the latter 25-lb. bags at $20.

An Phannarith, president of Angkor International, said store owners in Long Beach, Calif., home to tens of thousands of Cambodians, had been selling the rice by the pallet. “This shows a great deal of support from the community.”

Burnen Ben, a representative of Imperial Rina, said the sale of Cambodian rice creates more jobs and earnings for Cambodian famers. “And for the people in the US, they can enjoy rice from home.”

Most Asian grocers in Long Beach are carrying the rice.

“I’m happy to sell anything that’s made in Cambodia,” said Bora Nhek, who owns a small market in the city. “I support them all. I would be very happy if everything in my store came from Cambodia.”

Some customers have had to make adjustments, however.

“Some people say it tastes good,” said Ty Kuy, another market owner in Long Beach. “But some people say the rice is a little bit hard, because they’ve become used to Thai rice, which is softer. Cambodian rice has only become available recently, so I think people aren’t used to it yet.”

Still, the rice is finding loyal fans across the community.

“As soon as Cambodian rice became available here in Long Beach,” said Somaly Meas, a beauty salon owner, “I bought it right away.”

Sok Heng, an immigrant from Kampong Cham province, said the price was reasonable and the flavor was right. “The taste is real,” she said.