Singapore-based private equity fund manager Emerging Markets Investment Advisers (EMIA) via its new fund – ASEAN Frontier Markets Fund – has invested for the first time in major rice producer and exporter, Amru Rice (Cambodia) Co Ltd.
Mao Savin, EMIA Cambodia head and deal leader for Amru, said the partnership will support Amru’s growth and business scale-up to expand Cambodia’s share in the global rice market, especially in the high-value organic rice sector.
He lauded Amru’s growth resilience over the years and its sustainable business model, noting that EMIA was pleased to support the company’s vision to become a leading organic rice producer and exporter in Southeast Asia.
According to a statement by EMIA, farmers’ welfare has always been at the heart of Amru’s operations since its days as a small rice trader to now, a vertically integrated rice industry player.
“Guided by the vision of helping small farmers escape poverty, Amru works with more than 20,000 local farmers, over 50 percent of them women, through a contract farming model. They offer a fair incentive system and capacity development programs, amongst others, to create a sustainable and inclusive supply chain,” it said.
Amru’s products have earned a “strong foothold” in global competition, thanks to its “well-honed” competencies to work with farmers and embracing the best production practices.
EMIA said Amru’s rice products are well-accepted in the EU, North America, and Asian countries, which reflects its “increasingly prominent role in strengthening Cambodian rice presence in the international arena.”
“As a key actor and influencer in the country's rice sector, Amru is committed to developing not only a successful but also a sustainable and ethical business by implementing the highest standard of environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices.
"Driven by the commitment to make a difference, ESG advancement will thus remain core to the company in its next phase of growth,” it added.
Amru founder and CEO, Song Saran, said EMIA’s regional presence and broad network would be valuable to them as the company graduates to the “next stage” of its mission.
“AFMF's investment is expected to be highly additional and catalytic for Amru to accelerate its business growth and implement its ESG and climate agenda to make a more significant impact on all key stakeholders,” Saran shared.
In the near future, Amru aims to generate the first carbon credits through the reduced emissions enabled by new agriculture practices.
Amru has received support from the Dutch Fund for Climate and Development, a multi-country climate adaptation and mitigation programme, to introduce regenerative agriculture practices that improve soil quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Previously, World Bank’s International Financial Corp (IFC) also supported Amru in adopting Sustainable Rice Platform standards, which equipped the company and its contracted farmers to meet international buyers' requirements, EMIA said.
The support of these international organisations and the like is a strong endorsement of Amru's accomplishments and commitment to sustainable practices.
Joshua Morris, CEO of EMIA, said Amru’s “fast-growing profile, distinguished role in the country's economic development, and unprecedented approach to social empowerment and environmental protection” epitomised the characteristics of companies they are keen to support.
“This partnership also reaffirms our commitment to building innovative, transparent, sustainable businesses in Southeast Asia. We look forward to expanding our network of value-added companies that catalyses local markets' economic, environmental and social advancement,” Morris said.
Twenty companies in various sectors in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar which promote broader investment strategies have benefitted from EMIA and its funds.
AFMF is the third private equity fund of EMIA which pursues a sector-agnostic and sponsor-led investment strategy. It achieved its first close of $50 million in December 2022 and is targeting a final close of $90 million.
It backs companies that both provide attractive financial returns and make a positive impact and contribution to the markets in Southeast Asia.
The fund is backed by international organisations, including the IFC, German investor Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft or DEG, Dutch development bank FMO, Norwegian investment fund Norfund, and Swedish government’s Swedfund.