As salt farmers in Kep and Kampot provinces prepare for the upcoming salt season, they have expressed concerns that unstable weather conditions could cause a supply shortage on the growing domestic market.
Rain has caused farmers to delay the salt production, Ly Seng, president of the Kep-Kampot Salt Producer Association, said, adding that last year at this time, farmers had already started harvesting the first salt.
“This year we are not sure if we can supply enough salt to the market because the weather keeps on changing,” he said.
Salt production in Cambodia usually starts in early January and ends in late April, when salt farmers collect their final yield. Kep and Kampot are the only salt-producing regions in the country supplying the nationwide market. The total output changes according to the weather but with around 4,500 hectares of salt fields, both provinces can produce close to 90,000 tonnes annually. The output is just enough to meet domestic demand and is not yet being exported.
Noun Phalla, a salt farmer who owns 80 hectares of salt field, expects to produce 1,300 tonnes of salt this season. However, Phalla is concerned that early rainfall would decrease his output. He said work has already been delayed.
“The rain has just stopped a few days ago.”
Rainfall is not a new problem for salt farmers. In 2012, total salt production reached only 50 per cent of the expected yield. The 50,000 tonnes of salt in stocks from the previous year kept the price stable, according to Seng.
The current price of salt sold on the farms is about $4 for a 50-kilogram bag.
In 2009, Cambodia imported 60,000 tonnes of salt from China to supply domestic market. Seng said that if salt production decreases again this year, Cambodia will have to import again from China or India.
The Kep-Kampot Salt Producer Association plans to expand its fields by an additional 200 hectares to meet the high demand in the domestic market.
Seng said he submitted a proposal for 200 more hectares to Kampot’s Department of Industry, Mines and Energy before the election and was currently waiting for government approval.