Cambodia would not need to import salt from other countries to meet domestic demand in 2023 as favourable weather conditions have helped the production of salt where more than 80,000 tonnes have been harvested, industry insiders say.

Cambodia’s salt fields in Kampot and Kep, measured 4,748 hectares in total in 2023, almost similar in size in 2022.

While salt production season runs between late December and mid-May every year, the hot weather can delay production till early July. Favourable weather can see up to 20 tonnes of salt collected from just one hectare of salt field per year.

The Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation has previously mentioned that Cambodia needs between seven to 10,000 tonnes of salt a year to meet domestic demand.

Apart from meeting local salt needs, provinces bordering Thailand and Vietnam have also imported salt to sell.

Kampot Provincial Department of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation director Sok Kimchoeun told the Post on August 1 that salt production in Kampot province ended more than a month ago.

He said good weather in Kampot increased salt yields to 78, 484 tonnes in 2023, which is over 40,000 tonnes from the harvest in 2022.

Owing to that, domestic salt prices dropped slightly this year from the corresponding period in 2022 with white salt (good salt) averaging 20,000 riel for a bag of 50kg and unclean salt at 13,000 riel.

In 2022, Cambodia imported nearly 20,000 tonnes of natural salt from India to make up the gap in local demand because only 40,000 tonnes of salt was produced.

“This year, given the [high] salt harvest, I think Cambodia need not import salt to meet domestic demand,” Kimchoeun said.

As of August 1, 51,723 tonnes of salt in Kampot province had been released into the market, with more than 26,000 tonnes in stock still.

Assuming the weather is good (no rain) for more than two months, farmers can start preparing the land to drain the seawater into the fields gradually.

Asked about climate experts’ views that the world would experience low rainfall and high temperatures from 2023 to 2024, Kimchoeun remarked that dry weather is good for salt production.

“Natural salt production requires prolonged dry weather of up to two weeks or more. If it rains once every 10 days, salt production might be affected,” he explained.

Over in Keo, salt harvest fell about 40 per cent year-on-year to 3,000 tonnes this year from some 5,000 tonnes, said Phok Sokhen, director for the Provincial Department of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation.

The reason for the decline was because some farmers have stopped doing the job and moved on to other occupations.

To date, there are only seven production teams left in Kep, with 1,369 tonnes of salt stored in the warehouse in the province as of July 31, 2023.

“Job abandonment among farmers has seen a steady decline in Kep salt production in recent years,” Sokhen said, noting that demand for salt can only be gauged during the prahok season (November to December).

Recall that Cambodia harvested more than 100,000 tonnes of salt annually in 2014, 2015 and 2016 but the output has steadily declined since 2017.