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EU crisis hurting silk sector

Europe's continued economic troubles have weighed heavily this year on Cambodian silk producers, officials and industry insiders said yesterday.

Debt woes in the euro zone, the Kingdom’s main export market for silk, have caused job losses, among other issues, according to officials.

Cambodian Craft Cooperation, which makes silk products for export to Europe, saw a nearly 50 per cent decrease in orders, Director Seung Kimyonn said.

While some orders in 2010 reached as high as US$30,000, he said he now accepts shipments for as little as $600.

“I depended on this economy. Customers complained that because of economic matters in Europe they did not dare to buy. They were afraid they would [not see a return],” Seung Kimyonn said. Still, the domestic market has remained buoyant as tourism has improved since last year, he added.

Mey Kalyan, a senior advisor to the Supreme National Economic Council, said yesterday he was especially concerned about Cambodia’s silk sector should Europe’s economies continue to see declines.

“If we do nothing, the industry will decline further and probably will be finished one day,” he said, though he did not offer specifics on what Cambodia should do to protect the sector.

The Kingdom imports 400 tonnes of silk per year but manufactures only 5 tonnes domestically, Mey Kalyan said, adding, however, that domestic production was expanding.

An exact outlook for the industry was difficult to attain because Cambodia lacks official data on the domestic silk trade, Sisowath Pheanorat, coordinator of the silk project at the International Trade Center in Geneva, said.

“We are researching the exporters, but sometimes they don’t give us the data we ask for,” he said.

While the European economic crisis attributed to the decline in Cambodian exports, price increases in a narrow market were also to blame, according to Sisowath Pheanorat.

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