Ice and bottled water manufacturers have called for government advice to help strengthen the sector, highlighting the need for professional knowledge to improve quality.
A lack of skilled industry professionals together with the high cost of utilities were concerns for a group business people, officials and development workers who took part in a tour of Phnom Penh factories at the weekend.
Dang Heng, business service coordinator for private sector promotion at German development agency GTZ, said there were now 650 ice and drinking water enterprises in Cambodia, but only five percent had been accepted as meeting GTZ quality standards.
Dr Davin Uy, of the Food Industries and Biotechnology Institute of Technology of Cambodia, who helps GTZ and the government, warned that bad quality ice and water could lead to diarrhea, stomach ache, colds and headaches. He pointed to factory cleanliness and water filtration as key issues in the production line.
Manufacturers interviewed by the Post on Saturday were united in expressing a desire to improve standards and acknowledged the importance of quality in the market.
Khim Nary, owner of ice company Pop Ice Enterprise, said that her Tuol Kork district factory opened more than 20 years ago.
Although she sells ice to local restaurants, hotel and clubs, the facility lacks professional skills in order to improve products – for instance by keeping ice at low temperatures for longer amounts of time to prevent melting – and therefore widen business opportunities.
“We need more professional skills and advice from the government and NGOs to improve our business,” she said.
Fellow ice manufacturer Chea Sok, owner of Daun Keo City Enterprise, from Takeo province, complained that Vietnamese ice imports were sold cheaply at market due to the lower production costs abroad. He warned that 18 factories in Takeo faced bankruptcy.
“We’re still facing lack of professional skills,” he said. “But we’re focusing on good quality as the main point for competition.”
While Choun Sokha Phu, vice director of VESA Drinking Water, located in Takhmao town, Kandal province, agreed that some in the sector lacked adequate budgets and skills to improve ice and water production.
However, help is on the way courtesy of the government and development groups – such as GTZ – which hope to improve standards.
“We will train them to improve in order to compete with neighbouring countries,” said GTZ's Dang Heng.
Klot Sokha, deputy director of the technical department at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, said that the ministry’s goal was to establish a technical committee to help skills training.
Production knowledge, he said, had traditionally been passed down through family lines.
Heng Heang, chairman of Phnom Penh Small and Medium Industry Association, added: “If we help SMEs, it will reduce poverty.”