Cambodia will postpone importing salt to supply the domestic market this year, as harvests have netted 70,000-80,000 tonnes thus far, industry insiders said.
Last year, the Kingdom was hit by the severe weather phenomenon El Nino and experienced high rainfall in salt production areas, resulting in a yield of just over 30,000 tonnes for the year.
A study from the Salt Producers Community of Kampot-Kep (SPCKK), the Kingdom’s sole producers of the commodity, found that Cambodia needs between 80,000-100,000 tonnes of salt per year to satisfy its domestic demand.
SPCKK co-president Bun Baraing told The Post on Tuesday that the salt harvested this year will meet local demand as the climate in the region improves. Production and harvesting phases should be longer this year, he said.
“This year’s salt yield means we won’t have to import as much as last year,” he said. “So far, I think the production of salt may be around 80,000 tonnes.”
He added that this year’s wholesale salt price is about the same as last year, with top quality salt selling at around 15,000 riel ($3.64) per 50kg and lesser quality salt selling for 12,000 riel per 50kg.
Bun Narin, a salt producer in Kampot, said that rain has hit the region recently but salt farmers are still harvesting. Yields aren’t as high as they were in March and April, however.
Narin expects this year’s harvest to be considerably higher than last year’s. “I think this year, there won’t be a shortage of natural salt for consumption, but the country may import some industrial salts.”
Industrial salt, he said, is used in ice production and to wash clothes.
He confirmed that, according to data recently collected by officials, more than 70,000 tonnes of salt has been harvested this year.
But the salt sector still faces many problems related to labour shortages, he said.
Previous reports indicated that there is more than 4,500ha of salt-producing land, exclusively in Kampot and Kep. If the weather is favourable, each hectare can annually produce about 20 tonnes of salt from January to May.
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 slowing down to 143,145 tonnes in 2016.
It then plummeted to a dismal 33,058 in 2017, which Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation data shows generated about $22 million.
Production further dipped in 2018, when the Kingdom imported more than 10,000 tonnes of salt from China.
Last year, Cambodia imported over 5,000 tonnes of salt from India, said Baraing.
There is no official salt import data for 2019, but as a reference, in 2009 Cambodia imported 20,000 tonnes of salt from China at a cost of $2.2 million.