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Tourist slump hitting Cambodia's silk sector

Tourist slump hitting Cambodia's silk sector

THE global recession has driven Cambodia's silk sector to the brink of bankruptcy, producers and vendors said Wednesday, adding that sales have dropped as much as 50 percent in the last several months.

Sok Sinath, 45, who owns a small silk-weaving business in Koh Dach village in Kandal province, said most silk producers there feared that they were facing ruin, and that some have already closed.

"Last year, my business was good. But as the economic crisis began affecting tourism, sales have been quiet," she said, adding that she has been forced to drop her prices as much as 50 percent.

Nop Naren, 52, said she had to abandon her business because it was no longer profitable.

"I had to quit two months ago because I could not sell my products. My family has been forced to rely on my two daughters, who work in a garment factory," she said.

Vendors in Phnom Penh have also seen steep declines in trade.

"Without tourists and without a better economy, I don't know how long my shop will be able to survive," said Chan Phary, owner of Tuol Tumpong Silk Shop.

Other manufacturers have been able to compensate slightly for a decline in tourist-related sales through exports.

Neng Thavy, communications manager for Angkor Silk Farm and the Artisans Angkor outlet in Siem Reap, said current sales depend heavily on orders from outside the country.

"We've been able to recover a bit from clients in Vietnam, Korea, Japan and the United States," she said.

Men Sinoeun, executive director of the Artisans Association of Cambodia, a training and trade group, said silk sales last year generated US$2.7 million in revenues for the group's 41 member organisations, but that sales in the first half of 2009 have totaled only $1.1 million.

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