Consumer Patriotism Cannot Be Decreed: It Must Be Built

A woman buys vegetables at a market in Phnom Penh on September 15, 2020. (Photo: AFP)

The COVID-19 pandemic that, for a time, forced the authorities to shut down the borders, has highlighted that the country is heavily dependent on imports in the food sector. 



While some supermarkets display local products on their shelves, those products represent a small percentage of the products in distribution networks outside those markets.  



In an attempt to turn this situation around, the Ministry of Industry this month has brought together representatives of large retail outlets to encourage them to expand the space for Cambodian products on their shelves.



In numerous countries, the pandemic has given great impetus to patriotic consumerism, and this trend can also be seen throughout the country.



The fact remains that customers, here as well as elsewhere, are not ready to endanger their health to promote local products.



And it would be a mistake to ask distributors to lower their quality standards in order to enable local products to gain access to their shelves. 



The ball is therefore in the court of the local producers.  



It is up to them to raise their quality standards in food production as well as packaging and labelling.  



Even if artisanal, a product must be comparable to imported products in terms of production and presentation.   



Local producers must work on their products as if they were intended for export even if they will be sold locally.



Their production costs will no doubt be higher, but they will be able to sell at a higher price.



More importantly, they will reinforce confidence that the country’s consumers will have in those products.



Because those who must be persuaded to buy local products are not the distributors but the consumers.



 


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