It was December 1997. The Asian financial crisis was at its peak. Countries like Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore – who previously proudly titled themselves as tiger economies – suddenly plummeted into deep economic despair. In Thailand, the highly influential and respected monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej addressed his Thai people who were at that time entirely traumatized by the crisis: “To be a tiger is not important. The important thing for us is to have a self-supporting economy.” It meant the start of a new era; an era that boosted the self-esteem of Thailand as one of the best producers of food in the world.
Kitchen Of The World
A few years later the now exiled prime-minister Thaksin Shinawatra introduced the slogan that transformed the kingdom of Siam for good into a country with a very advanced and creative food industry: ‘Thailand, the kitchen of the world.’
Step into one of the larger shops of the supermarket franchise 7/11, and you will understand that this slogan is almost an understatement. You will be surprised by the enormous variety of innovative food products. I sometimes visit a wet market in Bangkok North and am always overwhelmed by the endless stream of new food items that small stallholders are introducing. In Cambodia, I always notice that whenever somebody is coming up with a new food product, others start to imitate him. In Thailand, on the contrary, they try to outpace the neighbor with a better or entirely different approach of his recipe.
Whenever my boyfriend is visiting Bangkok, he is carrying a long shopping list from his relatives in Malaysia and Singapore who can’t find the products in their supposedly more advanced cities, and are asking him to buy these for them.
The Khmer Canteen
Now let’s take a look at Cambodia, the next-door country where our cocoa farms are located. Cambodia has all the ingredients to become the next world’s kitchen. It has a fantastic climate and a very fertile soil that is still not spoiled by overuse of chemical fertilizers like it, unfortunately, happens in Vietnam; and it has an excellent agricultural tradition. It produces one of the highest qualities of rice; connaisseurs consider the Khmer avocados among the best in the world; the small strawberries from the hills in the Mondulkiri hills are a delicatesse; however, Cambodia can’t knock the skin off a rice pudding when it comes to new food products. This is probably due to a total lack of knowledge, low education levels and a trauma of the devastating Khmer Rouge period in which a novelty was seen as a danger instead of a virtue.
To continue with the metaphor of the Thai ‘kitchen’ economy, compared to Thailand, Cambodia is still stuck in a dirty canteen stage. The kingdom of Wonder has the potential, but it lacks leaders with a vision who are willing to direct the country on a path of flavor and taste.
But when leaders and businesses decide to cooperate and invest in the future, the Khmer lion can start preparing new recipes with the rich ingredients of the country and can change the dirty canteen into a high-tech cuisine. The Thai tiger is already in the kitchen, now it’s time for the Khmer lion to step up!
Back to our Cambodian cocoa: If you are interested in learning more about the first Cambodian cocoa in history, feel free to message our company at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at kamkavfarm.com.