Reports of government approval for what could become the Kingdom’s first pulp and paper mill in Kampot province’s Teuk Chhou district have galvanised investment hopes and instilled a renewed sense of opportunity in the southwestern coastal province.
Last month, the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) agreed to issue a final registration certificate for Shunying Pulp And Paper Co Ltd’s $504 million factory in Prek Tnaot commune’s Changhon village, noting that the plant would provide jobs for 2,261 locals.
Kampot provincial governor Cheav Tay told The Post on March 4 that new investment continues to pour into Kampot, even as the world remains beleaguered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said any development project will be a positive for the population and economic growth in the province, as well as Cambodia as a whole.
“I’m overjoyed with the number of investments Kampot province has received. No matter how small or large, these will create new jobs for the people and generate family income,” Tay said.
He said he did not know the timeframe for the paper mill, noting that the decision had to be made at the national level given the project’s magnitude.
Kampot provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries director Chan Rith said conditions in the province are particularly favourable for growing all sorts of crops.
“Kampot is a great location with potential for agriculture, agro-industry and tourism,” he said, pointing out that the paper mill will be located on the road from Kampot to Sihanoukville.
With no mills currently in Cambodia, the trees and pulp used to make paper are exported as raw material to neighbouring countries.
Tek Sopheak, country manager of Paper Tree Investment (Cambodia) Co Ltd, a subsidiary of Thai-based Paper Tree Holding Co Ltd, is investing in more than 1,800ha of eucalyptus plantations in the Kingdom.
He said: “I hadn’t heard news of the company’s plans to build a paper mill in Cambodia, but as I see it, the investment has little chance of materialising anytime soon, given that Cambodia lacks the raw materials – especially eucalyptus – which would be the main material needed for the factory.”
Eucalyptus trees take three to five years to reach market maturity, according to Sopheak. For the paper mill to be economically viable, the company must have 10,000ha at its disposal.
While eucalyptus provides the ideal fibre for paper, he suggested that sugar cane and acacia trees could provide a decent alternative.
According to Sopheak, his company currently buys raw eucalyptus timber at $25-30 per tonne, which it grinds into pulp and then sells to paper mills in Thailand for about $92 a tonne.