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Low salt yields leave industry scrambling to keep up reserves

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Workers gather salt crystals at a salt farm in Kep province in 2014. Heng Chivoan

Low salt yields leave industry scrambling to keep up reserves

Cambodia may need to import 30,000 tonnes of salt this year to meet local demand as producers face a shortage due to climate change, an industry group says.

Bun Baraing, co-director of the Kep-Kampot Salt Producers Community (KKSPC), told The Post on Wednesday that this is the second time the kingdom is importing salt to meet demand.

“After catastrophic rains, Cambodian salt producers are unable to harvest the required amount of salt,” he said.

Baraing said some 200 families are members of the KKSPC, and that the farmers have only been able to harvest a very small amount of salt due to the heavy rainfall.

“We could not collect much salt since the season started as the rains always spoiled the salt water before it could be harvested. This year, farmers could lose much of their fields,” he said.

On the coast of Kampot and Kep provinces, there are around 5,000 hectares of salt fields, with the harvesting season from January to late April, said Baraing.

He said the KKSPC will send a report on the salt shortage to the Ministry of Industry, stressing that it must import salt if market needs are to be met.

“This is the second time that we have faced a salt shortage, with the first being in 2008,” he said, adding that salt could be imported from China or India. “In the meantime, we are studying the import price from China, India and Sri Lanka.”

The salt price is currently at 17,000 riel ($4.25) per 50 kilograms, up 2,000 riel from last year.

Koeng Suntieng, a salt producer who has 30 hectares of salt fields, said he could only collect 1.5 tonnes this year, a fraction of what he has managed in previous seasons.

“I put everything I have into this, but I can’t make any profit. Ninety percent of salt producers can’t make any salt this year,” said Suntieng, who has invested $4,000 in his salt operations this year.

Sun Senghouth, director of the salt committee at the Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts, said he is aware of the shortage. He said the ministry is already seeking a solution to meet market demand.

The salt industry generated revenues of about $22 million last year, according to data from the Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts, while the sector’s total haul plus its existing reserves is about 143,000 tonnes.

Domestic demand for salt is about 90,000 tonnes annually, which leaves salt producers with only 60,000 tonnes in reserve which is grossly inadequate to meet demand.

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