Salt producers are optimistic that production in 2024 will surpass that of 2023, due in part to the official registration of Kampot-Kep salt as a Geographical Indication (GI) product, which is aiding in expanding the available export markets.

The government, through the Ministry of Commerce, officially recognised Kampot-Kep salt goods as GI items on April 26, 2023.

Bun Narin, president of the GI Association of Kampot-Kep Salt Producers, stated on December 18 that although salt in the two provinces is currently not harvested in large quantities, he anticipates higher output in 2024. He noted that the harvest would commence from mid-January onwards.

He attributed the expected increase to the forecast of hotter weather in 2024 by the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology and substantial support from the government and private sector in dissemination, research and technical training.

“I think salt production in 2024 will be higher than in 2023 and GI salt exports will be higher as well. We really want to export more GI salt because the market will help increase its price and reduce imports,” he said.

Kampot and Kep provinces, the heartland of Cambodian salt production, farmed a total area of 4,748ha in 2023, with Kampot producing nearly 80,000 tonnes and Kep about 3,000 tonnes of the commodity.

According to the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation, the country’s annual domestic demand for salt is between 70,000 and 100,000 tonnes.

The country imported nearly 20,000 tonnes of natural salt from India in 2022, as the local harvest was affected by climatic factors, yielding around 40,000 tonnes.

Narin stated that his association recently exported a container of GI salt to the EU. Additionally, companies from Japan, South Korea and the US have recently contacted the association.

He said GI salt products can be 30-100% more expensive than regular salt, varying with quality.

“The officially recognised GI salt is priced at around 30,000 riel [$7.25] per 50kg bag, in contrast to regular salt, which costs 20,000 riel [$4.85],” he explained.

“At the same time, I would like to ask the state to help reduce the tax rate related to salt exports in order to lower production costs and increase competitiveness in international markets,” he added.

Phok Sokhen, director of the Kep provincial industry department, noted that the current harvest in the province is relatively modest, as most salt marshes are in preparation, which involves the draining of sea water into them. 

He said the full harvest season runs from the beginning of January to the beginning of May each year, with Kep’s annual salt yield ranging between 2,000 and 3,000 tonnes. 

Sokhen added that this year’s salt output is expected to be higher due to the active involvement of national and provincial officials in enhancing local production capacity.

“Gaining a reputation as a GI product, along with government incentives for salt production and quality, will help increase the harvest in 2024,” he said.