Cambodia’s first evaporation-method salt farm for the export market opened in Kampot province on Saturday, aiming for an initial 20,000 tonnes a year to be exported to South Korea, with plans for future expansion.
In a $2.9 million investment, the 120-hectare farm incorporates modern salt production technology and was developed by InfraCo Asia Development Pte Ltd and EEE Korea Co Ltd through Asia Salt (Cambodia), which started in October last year.
Asia Salt (Cambodia) is a wholly owned subsidiary of joint venture company Asia Salt, which started in June.
“We hope this project will . . . sustain and strengthen the local economy. It should also demonstrate new farm design and techniques to improve quality and yields,” Peter Bird, director of InfraCo Asia, said.
In contrast to Cambodian salt farms in the area that use mud to form the banks of the evaporation ponds, or salterns, the new technique includes the use of black plastic sheets that lay on the bottom of the harvesting ponds to “help keep the salt clean and to increase the yield of the salt production”, Seraphina Ho, development manager at InfraCo Asia, said.
Co-executive director of the Salt Producer Community of Kampot and Kep, Bun Bariang, said the project was an “impressive achievement” and welcomed the “modern technology”.
According to Yoo Gi Sang, chairman of Asia Salt (Cambodia), Cambodia’s cheap labour and climate were among the reasons to set up in the Kingdom.
“Workers are cheap,” he said through his translator. In Korea, he added, they can only harvest for 120 days a year, but in Cambodia the weather conditions allow for 150 or 160 days of harvest a year. The quality of salt here is also better than that in Korea because there are fewer factories polluting the air, he said.
He also said Korea does not currently produce enough salt. The Korean government imports a lot of salt from China, “but the salt in China becomes worse and worse. It’s not good quality, so the Korean government cuts down on the amount of imports from China”, he said. The Korean government is looking for other places with good environmental conditions, he added.
According to Kenneth Baxter, chairman of InfraCo Asia, the project aims to encourage local salt farmers to adopt modern practices and has the potential to create a $100 million a year export sector.
The new farm will employ 350 workers, and there are plans to expand to 400 hectares in the future, which could produce 100,000 tonnes of salt a year, Yoo Gi Sang said.
Seraphina Ho said more land will be leased through the Salt Producer Community of Kampot and Kep from owners of the surrounding 4,000 hectares of salt producing fields. She said an expansion could possibly allow for exports to Japan and the EU in the future. The salt produced will not, however, be sold domestically.
Last week the Post reported the Kep-Kampot Salt Producers Community as saying that salt production fell nearly 50 per cent below forecasts because of early rainfall, which is assumed to end salt harvesting for the year. Salt output reached only 41,000 tonnes this year, compared with an expected 80,000 tonnes, it reported.