T he country's only factory producing rice sacks is slowly grinding to a halt, a
top factory official said. Production has dropped by half since 1992, he
The plant in Battambang, which processes home-grown jute plants, is
now operating at only 30 percent capacity, said the manager, who declined to be
named. He has been at the factory since before the Khmer Rouge seized
The plant, which has 655 employees, used to be capable of
processing enough jute to make the country self-sufficient in rice sacks. But
problems with aging machinery have meant that sacks now also have to be imported
from Vietnam and Thailand.
The machinery, which was installed when the
factory opened in 1967, is breaking down and there is no cash to pay for
desperately-needed repairs and spare parts, he said.
The official said
that a request for help had been made to the Ministry of Industry, which owns
the plant, but a reply had yet to arrive.
The plant worked up to a peak
production of 16,700 sacks a day but has now slipped back to 5,000 a
The manager added: "The quality of the sacks is getting worse and
The factory was closed down and the machinery damaged by the
Khmer Rouge during their time in power.
Ingenuous repair work by
engineers got production restarted after the Pol Pot regime was toppled.
At first only 200 sacks a day were produced but managers were able to
coax the machines to get output up to 10,000 sacks a day.
takes the fibrous outer skin of jute plants and spins them into a rope-like
material, which is then further processed into the sacks, which are sold for
There is apparently no lack of raw material. During the
Post's visit to the factory one large warehouse was full of jute plants waiting
to be processed and another was three-quarters full.
The official said
however that the quality of the sacks has been hit by the lack of good standard
jute plant seeds.
He said: "In Pol Pot times the seeds were destroyed."
In 1978, when the official returned to the factory, he had to collect
what seeds he could find, planting them to produce enough to give to local
farmers to grow. But there are two types of jute, the rarer one of higher
During its initial years the factory was able to produce sacks
that had as much as 60 per cent of the higher quality jute. Now only 10 to 20
per cent of the sacks are of the higher quality jute.
The official thinks
that foreign governments and NGOs will send over seeds to solve the
However he says that OXFAM is the only NGO to have visited the
factory and seen the difficulties in maintaining production. And that was in
The British Ambassador David Burns did pay a visit just prior to
last May's elections.
The official said: "He saw the problems and donated
a little support for the factory."