Representatives and exporters in the geographical indication (GI) palm sugar industry have raised concerns that recent cases of fake sugar seized in raids are negatively affecting the reputation of the product and its export market.
Authorities recently shut down fake palm sugar production sites in Takeo province’s Bati district.
Kampong Speu Palm Sugar Promotion Association (KSPSPA) president Sam Saroeun said such crackdowns would protect Cambodia’s GI palm products, but a harmed reputation could be detrimental to sales in both the local and global markets in which they are popular.
“Fake production will damage the name of our palm sugar here in Kampong Speu province. From now on, before people buy palm sugar, they must be aware of its source and avoid buying fake palm sugar.
“I support the authorities’ recent crackdowns on fake sugar palm production sites,” he said.
The KSPSPA has 168 members, which expect to have produced 250 tonnes of palm sugar this year, he said. GI palm sugar currently sells for 6,000 riel ($1.48) per kilogramme.
“The GI palm sugar community is planning to raise the price of palm sugar by 100 riel per kilogramme next year,” he said.
Kampong Speu palm sugar was registered as an EU-protected product in April. It was the second Cambodian product to receive GI certification after Kampot pepper was registered in February 2016.
GI palm sugar exporter Confirel Co Ltd deputy managing director Hym Piseth told The Post on Monday that his company was also concerned about the production of fake sugar.
“The concern is that it could affect our export market,” he said.
His said his company spent three years explaining to European buyers the common misconception that palm sugar was made from coconut oil, which led to the firm later rebranding its product “Thnot Sugar”. Thnot is Khmer for the palmyra palm from which the company’s sugar is made.
“I am very worried because the company has spent years building the reputation of palm sugar products to sell on the European market. Buyers could mistakenly think palm sugar was made from coconut oil.”
Palm sugar is sometimes confused with the similar coconut sugar; however, it is made from a different kind of palm tree.
Confirel ordered more than 100 tonnes of GI palm sugar during the 2018 harvest season. It shipped 83 tonnes in the first 11 months of this year to Europe, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and China, among others, Piseth said.
“Our exports have not reached the company’s target . . . it seeks to export 150 tonnes per year,” he said.
Currently, there are 10 palm sugar exporters shipping the product to 20 countries. The main destinations are Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and the EU, KSPSPA data shows.