The Ministry of Commerce just announced the registration of the first two Geographical Indications (GI) for Cambodia. A GI is like a trademark for goods – typically food products – originating in a certain region. Producers within the region, who abide by the governing organizations’ rules, can use the GI designation on their products.

So what’s the point? A GI is all about differentiating your product from the run-of-the-mill commodities of your competitors, which hopefully will let you charge a higher price. If a regional group of producers can point to something distinctive about their product – perhaps the soil gives it a particular flavor, or there’s a traditional production technique – then it might form the basis for a successful GI campaign.

In order to join the WTO, Cambodia had to agree to update its intellectual property laws – including passing a GI law. The Ministry of Commerce issued an interim regulation early last year allowing for the registration of GIs, while a full GI Law is currently being drafted. Today, the first two GI applications were granted, for Kampong Speu palm sugar and Kampot pepper. I don’t know much about the palm sugar, but Kampot pepper is a real treat – the fresh green clumps of peppercorns make a fantastic seafood sauce. Before the civil war disrupted production, Kampot pepper was quite reknowned in the French culinary world.

Hopefully with the GI and a bit of marketing, the producers down in Kampot can regain some of that cachet.