A national silk board (NSB) under the Ministry of Commerce is being planned to weave tighter regulations into the Kingdom’s silk industry, the lack of which has deterred investors and hurt its export potential, according to industry representatives.
Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said last week that he aims for the NSB to be ready after the Kingdom’s general elections in late July. The NSB hopes to look into areas such as creating a certification process to boost the quality of silk produced, coordinating public-private partnerships, and collating information related to the industry.
“Right now, we have silk in one of the important points in the Trade Sector Wide Approach,” he said. The Trade Sector Wide Approach, known as Trade SWAp, is an initiative implemented by the government in 2008 to boost trade development in Cambodia.
“After we approve these strategies [from the initiative] we will organise the NSB to lead and develop Khmer silk for exporting,” he added.
An NSB adviser, Pheanuroth Sisowath, said: “Nowadays, there are no investors in this sector at all,” because there is no framework to ensure the quality of silk products.
With the NSB, the government can show their commitment to the silk industry, which will attract more investors, added Sisowath, who is also a senior technical adviser with the International Trade Center (ITC), a UN-backed agency that will help to implement the NSB.
According to an ITC report in 2012, Cambodia has about 20,000 silk weavers, with the majority of whom are women, contributing $25 million annually to the Kingdom’s GDP.
Boosting the silk industry would therefore also empower females, said Suon Prasith, program manager with the Kingdom’s Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), which is funding the new initiative.
The EIF is a multi-donor program under the World Trade Organisation, which supports least developed countries to be more active players in the global trading system. It has set aside $1.4 million to promote the silk sector.
In a meeting earlier this year to discuss the establishment of NSB, secretary of State for Ministry of commerce, Pan Sorasak, said that the NSB would “boost and enhance Cambodian silk in order to reduce poverty reduction and promote the standard of living of the people”.