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Boost for Kingdom’s threatened silk industry

A project to boost Cambodia’s embattled silk industry has been salvaged by government backing, organisers say.

Funding into research at the Bantey Dek Silk Station in Kadal, which has been used to investigate different silkworms that could revitalise Cambodia’s silk industry, ended in February.  

Kalyan Mey, director of the Cambodian silk program of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), said Prime Minister Hun Sen has promised to support the project financially.

Dating back to the first century, silk weaving in Cambodia has a long history, but under the Khmer Rouge regime, traditional weaving practices were forgotten.

Today, several issues have contributed to the industry’s slow demise, including a lack of modernisation, and environmental factors such as a disease that affects over 50 per cent of silkworms in the country.

The new funding for the FAO project, $1,200 per month, will be used to help bridge finances until next year when Mey hopes the Ministry of Agriculture will introduce the silk industry into the government budget.

He said the money was small but  represented a symbolic achievement for the industry. “It shows the commitment of our leader – this program is very important [for Cambodia].

Mey said the country has not had a strong recent history of practical research into industries like silk weaving and that more knowledge is needed to expand development.

Earlier this year, the Post reported the introduction of eri worms in Kandal province. However, the new silkworms – which are already popular in India, Japan and Thailand and are considered to be more resistant to heat and disease – died.

More time was needed to find out how best to breed the worms in Cambodian environmental conditions, said Mey.

The research into eri will continue when another sample of eggs from Japan arrives later this year, he added.

Another variation of silkworm, the bombyx-hybrid, has proved a success.

The bombyx worm, which has been severely affected by disease, has been bred to be more resistant to the Kingdom’s conditions.  

Mey said he plans to start distributing the bombyx-hybrid silkworms to between 100 and 200 farmers in early June.

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