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Bad weather assaults salt industry

BAD weather in Kampot on Monday caused about US$700,000 in damage to salt farms, the director of the Kep Salt Production Association said in the latest in a series of recent setbacks for the industry.

Ly Seng told said Wednesday that between 10,000 and 15,000 tonnes of salt had been affected, and that this damage could escalate if the recent weather that caused severe flooding in the area does not improve soon.

“We have no means to protect the salt farms because we farm depending on the weather,” he said. “If there is rain in the next 10 days, more salt production will be lost.”

At least five salt farms were hit in Boeung Chhuok, Srekoh,

Boeung Ruong I and Boeung Ruong II, and Ses Sar in Chuok district, added Ly Seng.

This week’s setback comes after Ly Seng last month gave a positive outlook for the industry for this year despite a period of bad weather that affected 3,000 tonnes. Cambodia was targeting about 90,000 tonnes domestic production for this year, he said at the time, a figure he did not revise downwards Wednesday.

Last year the industry suffered because of unusually poor weather during the dry season – salt is harvested after evaporation from November to May when producers can usually expect minimal rain.

However, unseasonably heavy rains at the start of 2009 cut production to just 30,000 tonnes for the year, way below domestic annual consumption of as much as 120,000 tonnes, meaning the remainder had to be imported, mostly from China. At about US$120 per tonne Chinese imported salt is much more expensive than that produced domestically, which costs just $70 a tonne.

Cambodia has experienced domestic salt shortages since 2007. They increased in 2009, meaning the Kingdom had to import for the first time in recent years, according to the Kep Salt Production Association.

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