Favourable weather this year had a positive impact on salt production, meaning Cambodia will not need to import salt from abroad, as it had to a few years ago, according to insiders in the salt production industry

The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology forecasted that the weather in 2024 will be warmer than in 2023, with a longer dry season. 

On January 12, the ministry announced that after monitoring conditions, it expects temperatures to fluctuate sharply from now until May, predicting average maximums of 37 degrees Celsius, peaking at around 41C in April and early May. 

It stated that unexpected light showers may occur during the dry season due to a weak southwest monsoon, which is expected to delay the onset of the rainy season compared to 2023.

Kampot and Kep provinces are the Kingdom’s salt production hub, with Kampot-Kep salt officially recognised as a Geographical Indication (GI) product by the government in April 2023. Last year, the salt marsh area in both provinces remained similar to 2022, covering 4,748ha.

In Kampot, nearly 80,000 tonnes of salt was harvested in 2023, while Kep produced about 3,000 tonnes.

Production, yields increased

Phok Sokhen, director of the Kep provincial Department of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation, told The Post on January 31 that the hotter weather this year is progressively yielding positive results for salt production. 

He said the salt harvested in Kep is currently around 300 tonnes, a significant increase compared to the same period of 2023. 

He noted that salt farming and harvesting activities are steadily gaining momentum.

“We are optimistic that the salt yield in 2024 will see a significant increase, as the specialised unit of the ministry forecasts a longer dry season this year compared to 2023,” he said.

Sokhen reported that as of January, Kep had a total production area of 331ha for salt production and 44 salt warehouses. As of January 20 this year, 230 tonnes of salt had been produced, resulting in a stockpile of about 740 tonnes. 

In 2023, salt harvested by Kep amounted to over 2,515 tonnes.

Soeng Nary, director of the Kampot provincial industry department, said the harvest in the province has exceeded 2,000 tonnes, a number much higher than last year. 

However, she noted that the price of the commodity at the beginning of the harvest season had dropped by about 20%, with a 50kg bag of the highest quality salt costing around 12,000 riel ($3).

“The quantity of harvested salt has grown substantially compared to last year, yet prices are declining. Given the weather forecast, we anticipate that salt production in 2024 will be considerably higher than the previous year,” she said.

Depending on the weather, Nary added that the country would not require salt imports this year to meet domestic demand, unlike in previous years.

In 2022, Cambodia imported nearly 20,000 tonnes of natural salt from India to satisfy domestic demand, while climatic factors resulted in a harvest of around 40,000 tonnes. In 2019, the country also imported about 10,000 tonnes of salt.

First “GI” salt exported to EU

Bun Narin, president of the GI Association of Kampot-Kep Salt Producers, noted that the current state of production is much more positive compared to the same period last year. 

However, he noted that the price is much lower; good quality salt is currently priced between 12,000 to 15,000 riel ($3 to $3.70) per bag, while in the same interval of 2023, it was between 15,000 to 17,000 riel ($3.70 to $4.20).

Narin stated that the first export of GI salt to the European market at the end of 2023 amounted to more than 17 tonnes.

He said the association is working to promote and find markets in other countries for additional exports.

“I believe that salt production in 2024 will surpass that of 2023 and the exports of GI Kampot-Kep salt will also be higher. We are keen to increase exports … as the market is likely to boost the price of GI salt and decrease our reliance on imports,” he said.

Industry minister Hem Vanndy emphasised at a recent event that domestic salt production plays a crucial role in creating jobs for farmers and as an ingredient in food.

He said the government continually encourages farmers to produce more of the product and has introduced various supportive measures to develop the sector.

The ministry has estimated that the country requires between 70,000 and 100,000 tonnes of salt per year to meet domestic demand. In the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, it harvested more than 100,000 tonnes annually.