Prime Minister Hun Manet has urged Kampot and Kep provincial authorities to diligently manage and preserve salt marshes to sustain and enhance salt production.

Manet emphasised the necessity of managing and conserving salt marshes, given the government’s classification of the product as a strategic commodity, during the closing ceremony of the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation’s 2023 annual review meeting held on February 21.

He highlighted the importance for the two provincial administrations to address the challenges posed by degraded salt marshes. 

“We must continue to pay close attention to strengthening the management and conservation of salt marshes in Kampot and Kep, a legacy from our ancestors, and promote the production of salt, which the government deems a strategic commodity. This approach aligns with the initiatives to address the issues of non-viable salt marshes,” he stated.

Kampot and Kep provinces are key salt production regions. In 2023, the area dedicated to salt farming in both provinces remained consistent with the previous year at 4,748ha. The harvest in Kampot reached nearly 80,000 tonnes, while Kep produced about 3,000 tonnes, as reported by the ministry. 

It indicated that the country requires between 70,000 and 100,000 tonnes of the commodity annually to satisfy domestic needs.

Bun Narin, president of the Association of Geographical Indication (GI) Kampot-Kep Salt Producers, said the prime minister’s recommendation holds significant value for producers, encouraging them to intensify and expand their production. 

He noted the critical importance of self-sufficiency in salt production to reduce the country’s dependency on imports. 

Narin stressed the vulnerability of countries reliant on imported food products, particularly during political and economic crises.

He said the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, for instance, has posed considerable challenges for nations dependent on imports from these countries. 

“On behalf of the [association], we are very grateful and seek both moral and technical support from the authorities and relevant parties to enhance the production of high-quality natural salt. The effort aims to fulfil domestic consumption requirements and facilitate exports to international markets,” he stated.

He added that the maintenance and conservation of salt fields and related occupations are vital.

He highlighted that historical research and inscriptions reveal that the Khmer ancestors had been producing salt since before the 7th century.

He said some historical documents even describe a salt tax and the exchange of salt for goods or weapons with other nations.

Narin predicted that the harvest in 2024 would surpass that of 2023, noting that as of February 15, production in the two provinces had already yielded over 21,000 tonnes. 

“If the weather in 2024 maintains high temperatures as estimated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, I believe the quantity of salt harvested in Cambodia will exceed 100,000 tonnes,” he stated.

At a forum on the work priorities of the ministry held on January 26, industry minister Hem Vanndy highlighted the important role of local salt production in job creation for farmers and its use as a food ingredient. 

He stated that the government continuously encourages farmers to increase production and had implemented several supportive measures to develop the sector.

The period from 2014-2016 was notable for the Kingdom’s salt production, with over 100,000 tonnes harvested annually.

However, in 2022, the country imported nearly 20,000 tonnes of natural salt from India to satisfy domestic demand, as climatic conditions resulted in a harvest of only around 40,000 tonnes.

In 2019, the country imported about 10,000 tonnes of salt, as per the ministry.