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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Salt industry looks to revive production after bad year

Salt industry looks to revive production after bad year

091209_08
Salt vendors sell their goods Monday in Phnom Penh. Domestic producers say this season looks better than last year, when rain damaged salt fields in Kampot and forced the Kingdom to import for the first time.

Producers in Kampot hope to fully supply the nation in the coming year

CAMBODIA’S salt producers are aiming to boost salt production to at least 90,000 tonnes in the upcoming season to fully meet domestic demand after bad weather last season severely curtailed output, the head of the national association said Monday.

Salt Producers Association President Ly Seng said bad weather meant just 30,000 tonnes was produced in the last production season, which ran from November to May, well below the national target of 100,000 tonnes.

As a result, the association imported salt for the first time to meet local demand of around 120,000 tonnes per year.

However, Ly Seng said weather still remained a major concern.

“We have experienced salt shortages since 2007 because production has been smaller than demand,” he said “If we are unable to produce as much salt as we have planned, Cambodia will face salt shortages like in previous years.”

Hot, dry weather is required to produce salt through the evaporation of seawater from salt fields, but early rains last year massively curtailed production. In response to this shortage of salt, the Salt Producers Association sought government permission in June 2009 to import 60,000 tonnes of salt from China.

Ly Seng said 30,000 tonnes has already been imported and that a further 20,000 tonnes will be shipped in at the end of this month to meet peak demand in January as Cambodians prepare to make prahok, a crushed, salted and fermented fish paste.

The import price is around US$110 per tonne, and it can be sold to wholesalers at $120 per tonne, Ly Seng said.

Chhun Hin, director at the Department of Industry, Mines and Energy in Kampot province, where the country’s 4,400 hectares of salt flats are located, said local producers have capacity to produce from 120,000 to 200,000 tonnes of salt per season, weather permitting.

“We hope that salt production will exceed our plans for next year because the weather has been better than it was last year,” Chun Hin said.

He predicted, based on weather forecasts, that Cambodia would produce 120,000 tonnes of salt this season, which he said would be enough for local demand.

Cambodia typically produces around 180,000 tonnes of salt a year, which enables the country to export the surplus. Ly Seng said the association would stop imports next year if Cambodian producers were able to boost production to previous levels.

“We import salt only when production is much lower than demand,” he added.

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