The Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation is preparing the 2022-2026 salt development strategy to develop, manage and conserve fields in the Kingdom – almost exclusively in Kampot and Kep provinces – and improve the economic efficiency of salt production.
Speaking at the opening of the ministry’s annual review meeting on February 7, minister Cham Prasidh underlined that the five-year strategy is designed with policy measures that encourage salt production in a manner that is “proper, transparent and accountable”, with a view to ensuring the optimal allocation and distribution of resources with minimum wastage.
One of the key issues that needs to be addressed in the field is the rehabilitation of abandoned or neglected salt fields that remain in the books, he stressed.
According to Prasidh, the Ministry of Economy and Finance is also lending a hand to refine the guidelines and other mechanisms outlined in the five-year strategy.
Huon Sorangsey, director of the industry ministry’s Department of Handicraft Affairs, told The Post that the government considers salt a strategic commodity, and is developing the strategy to prop up producers in Kampot and Kep.
He said his ministry, in collaboration with its finance counterpart, is updating procedures to establish a new salt-field association to build and support a sustainable future for the salt sector.
The draft has been finalised but has yet to be approved by the senior levels of government, he said, adding that given the green light, the document would be signed by the industry and finance ministries and put into formal implementation.
The department reported that Cambodia produced more than 75,000 tonnes of salt in 2021, down by over 20,000 tonnes from a year earlier.
In comparison, Kampot provincial Department of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation director Sok Kim Choeun earlier reported that salt output reached 105,000 tonnes in 2020 – 85,000 from Kampot and 20,000 from Kep.
Official figures show that salt production in the provinces soared from 80,000 tonnes in 2013 to 147,000 in 2014 and then to 175,172 in 2015, before falling back to 143,145 tonnes in 2016.
It then plummeted to a dismal 33,058 in 2017, which industry ministry data shows generated about $22 million. Production further dipped in 2018, and then again in 2019.
Bun Narin, owner of Thaung Enterprise, told The Post that the salt sector in Kampot and Kep faces many challenges such as labour shortages, climate change, stiff competition and higher operating costs.
He said some salt producers had quit the trade or taken a break, leading to the recent decline in output, which he put at “60,000-70,000 tonnes” from “90,000 to more than 100,000 tonnes”, without providing a timeframe for reference.
“Abandoned salt fields could only be put into productive use if prices for local salt are commensurate with the associated costs and remain competitive with imports. We expect the relevant ministries to encourage producers by other means that would maintain the stability of local salt production,” Narin said.