The process of establishing an association to represent and manage the “Kampot-Kep Salt” name once the commodity has been awarded domestic geographical indication (GI) status – expected late next month – is “progressing smoothly”, reported Bun Narin, the group’s acting president and number-one candidate for its top post.

The Ministry of Commerce has tentatively set April 26 for the “launch” of “Kampot-Kep Salt” as a GI product, in a formal recognition of its inclusion in the Cambodian registry and the accompanying protections.

Industry insiders are expecting the GI tag to drive a marked lift in the profile of the commodity – and Cambodian salt as a whole – on the international arena, as well as dramatic growth in overseas sales.

The vast majority of the Kingdom’s salt farms are in the coastal provinces of Kampot and Kep, and the harvest season typically falls between early January and May each year, although it may begin earlier and extend longer with hotter temperatures and less precipitation.

The commerce ministry’s Department of Intellectual Property Rights – also known as CambodiaIP – earlier confirmed that the product would be able to be traded under the GI-protected name in either rock or ground form, or as “fleur de sel” – a French term that translates to “flower of salt” – which forms as a delicate, flaky crust on the surface of seawater as it evaporates.

A GI is an intellectual property (IP) tool that protects products originating or otherwise strongly linked to a specific geographical region, and that possess particular qualities, reputations or other characteristics that are fundamentally attributable to their territory of origin.

GI products are generally accompanied by a sign to distinguish them from unauthorised analogues, as well as an association to represent, promote,manage and protect them.

The Kampot-Kep salt association’s application to the Ministry of Interior is currently being prepared, Narin told The Post on March 28, adding that the group is expected to attend the commerce ministry’s ceremony on April 26. He affirmed that its English name would be the “Association of Geographical Indication Kampot-Kep Salt Producers”.

He expects things to move forward swiftly, given the association’s planned non-profit status and main objectives, which include supporting the living standards of salt farmers and producers, and improving the image of Cambodian products on the international stage.

The GI association and status will “provide many positive effects” for farmers and exports, multiplying prices for the commodity by two- or three-fold, as well as opening doors for expansions of the domestic and international buyer bases of existing and future GI products in the Kampot-Kep region, such as “Kampot Pepper”, he claimed.

Preliminary data show that Kampot-Kep salt output jumped from just over 0.9 kilotonnes as of February 28 to over 20 kilotonnes at present – both lower than anticipated, Narin indicated, pinning the disappointing results on heavy rain spells in January.

And prices – although currently similar to the levels seen in the same time last year – have dropped from 25,000-28,000 riel ($6.25-$7.00) per 50kg sack in early February to 22,000-23,000 riel on March 6, to 15,000-18,000 riel now, according to him.

He shared that Kampot-Kep salt has been exported to countries such as Japan, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, the UK and Canada.

Kampot-Kep salt is – quite conveniently – set to join “Kampot Pepper” in the domestic GI registry, as mentioned by Narin.

The latter is the most highly-prized variety of these piquant berries cultivated in Cambodia – grown in the namesake province – which remains the sole cultivar protected under domestic GI status. The Kampot Pepper Promotion Association (KPPA) is in charge of managing this GI.

KPPA president Nguon Lay remarked that GI tags generally improve the markets and prices of products, and speculated that Europeans’ partiality to salt and pepper as food condiments will fuel exports of these.

Finding Kampot pepper on sale is not difficult, as is verifying that its prices are higher than non-GI counterparts, he noted.

Kampot provincial Department of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation director Sok Kim Choeun says that sufficiently high temperatures, minimal rainfall and otherwise favourable weather conditions over three consecutive months during the salt season could bring output up to more than 100,000 tonnes, in excess of annual domestic demand with plenty left for storage.

Estimates put annual domestic demand at 70,000-100,000 tonnes.

Late in January, Kim Choeun commented to The Post that a GI label would mean positive tailwinds for salt farmers and the economy at large, adding that heavy rainfall and labour shortages in recent years have prompted imports of the condiment.

The Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation reported that the total area under salt production in Kampot and Kep provinces was 4,748ha in 2021 and had not significantly changed in 2022, with each hectare yielding an average of 20 tonnes each year under good weather conditions.