Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Business Insider: Royal University spins plans for silk centre

Business Insider: Royal University spins plans for silk centre

Mey Kalyan in his office at the Royal University of Phnom Penh last week. Post Staff
Mey Kalyan in his office at the Royal University of Phnom Penh last week. Post Staff

Business Insider: Royal University spins plans for silk centre

Despite Cambodia’s cultural and historical ties to silk production, the Kingdom now relies heavily on imports for the production of its finished silk products. The Post’s Hor Kimsay sat down with Mey Kalyan, chairman of the Board of Directors at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), to discuss plans for a new Silk Research Centre and the university’s effort to revive the silk-producing industry in Cambodia.

How would you describe the current status of Cambodian silk production?
Today we have silk products, but we do not have a complete production line in Cambodia. Most of the work we do here is just weaving and colouring.

We have farmers who feed the silkworms, and we follow our ancestral traditions – we do not have a breeding centre, which would allow us to produce silk at a faster pace. If we feed 100 silkworms by hand, as our ancestral technique requires, the death rate of the silkworms can be up to 80 percent.

Therefore, we lack a steady supply of silk and need to import. We have imported nearly 400 tonnes of silk, spending more than $30 million.

What is the purpose and the significance of the initiative to establish the Silk Research Centre at RUPP?
Our goal is to promote finished silk products made entirely in Cambodia, and the centre will help us achieve this goal.

We wanted to create a professional research centre for silk farmers, where they could be supplied with silkworms that produce high-quality silk, and where they could be connected to researchers for the benefit of their crops.

The centre has coordinated with farmers’ associations, and if farmers encounter sick worms, a university team will study the problem and find a solution.

What does the RUPP research and development project entail?
Members of the university’s faculty of engineering have designed the silk centre and laboratory for us, while the biology department is helping improve breeding techniques for silkworms and fine-tuning methods of extracting silkworm proteins for use in other products, like shampoo.

Some faculty associations are helping establish links to farmers, and we have a marketing team that is focused on connecting the silk-making community to the market. We are taking a holistic approach and looking at improving both production and marketing, which I think is the right thing to do.

How would increased silk production benefit the economy?
It provides farmers with greater profits. According to a study, farmers can earn more cash from growing silkworms and producing silk than they can from planting rice crops. In a hectare of land, a silkworm grower can produce a batch of silkworms at least five times a year, earning about $5,000 annually. Silk not only offers economic benefits, but helps to promote the Cambodian culture.

How far along are you on building the centre and implementing your plans to promote silk production in Cambodia?
We have already started building the centre, and recently received aid from Japan amounting to over $90,000 to help complete the construction. We also have 11 hectares of land in Kampong Speu province where we have started growing mulberry plants, which can be fed to future batches of silkworms. We are also trying to expand these types of projects to other target provinces.

When do you expect Cambodia will have a full silk production line of its own?
We need to produce at least 400 tonnes of silk per year, so we need at least 5,000 hectares of mulberry plants. This means that we have to wait until the farmers contact us to say they are interested in partnering with us. It may take a long time, but we need to continue to promote this idea and let farmers know this can be very profitable for them.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Businesses in capital told to get travel permit amid lockdown through One Window Service

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has issued guidelines on how to get travel permission for priority groups during the lockdown of Phnom Penh, directing private institutions to apply through the municipality's One Window Service and limit their staff to a mere two per cent. In

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and