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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Silk weavers struggle as cost of thread increases

Silk weavers struggle as cost of thread increases

PROFITS supporting Cambodia’s silk weavers are declining further as the price of raw silk rose 37 percent in the last 12 months, the Khmer Silk Village Association (KSVA) said Wednesday.

Kae Muny, secretary general of the KSVA, told the Post that imported silk now costs US$37,000 per tonne, compared with only $27,000 per tonne in May last year.

“We believe that the increase of silk price this year probably resulted from changes in weather; also, many mulberry farmers – who produce silk – have been turning to other higher-income crops,” he said.

In Cambodia, nearly all silk products are woven from thread imported from other Asian countries. Around 20,000 silk weavers work within the Kingdom, using between 300 and 400 tonnes of silk to weave into sampots (sarongs), scarves and bags to supply to local and foreign markets every year.

It is estimated that about 95 percent of the raw silk needed to support production is imported from Vietnam, with most of the rest imported from China.

Cambodia produces around 4 tonnes of silk per year from plantations in Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap.

Despite increasing production costs, the price of finished products has remained stable according to Te Taing Por, co-president of the Small and Medium Enterprises and Factories Working Group.

“Our weavers are losing a lot of money because silk price is increasing while the price of their finished products still stay the same,” Te Taing Por said.

On April 27, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the suspension of a 7 percent tax on silk imports and 10 percent Value Added Tax in an attempt to help the country’s silk-weaving community survive. The decision, made at the Government-Private Sector Forum was in response to requests from the private sector.

Prince Sisowath Pheanuroth, president of the Khmer Silk Village Association, said Wednesday that the suspension of taxes was a positive step that could help investors in the silk sector to continue to produce and sell their finished products at low prices.

“I think that Cambodia should encourage the planting of mulberry plantations so that it could produce silk in larger amounts to face increases in silk price in the future,” he said.

Men Sinoeun, executive director of the Cambodian Craftsman Association (CCA), which employs 2,000 people in the silk-production sector, said on Wednesday that the increase in silk price had directly affected his association’s production this year.

Cambodia exports 30 percent of its finished silk products, according to KSVA.

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