The Ministry of Commerce has tentatively set April 26 for the “launch” of “Kampot-Kep Salt” as a geographical indication (GI) product, in a formal recognition of its inclusion in the Cambodian registry and the accompanying protections.

Industry insiders are expecting the GI status to drive a marked lift in the profile of the commodity – and Cambodian salt as a whole – on the international arena, as well as dramatic growth in overseas sales.

The vast majority of the Kingdom’s salt farms are in Kampot and Kep, and the harvest season typically falls between early January and May each year, although it may begin earlier and extend longer with hotter temperatures and less precipitation.

A GI is an intellectual property (IP) tool that protects products originating or otherwise strongly linked to a specific geographical region, and that possess particular qualities, reputations or other characteristics that are fundamentally attributable to their territory of origin. GI products are generally accompanied by a sign to distinguish them from unauthorised analogues.

A key meeting was held last week to discuss the name of the formal association that will manage and administer the potential GI item – produced in neighbouring coastal provinces Kampot and Kep – along with the accompanying draft Book of Specifications and logo, the ministry’s Department of Intellectual Property Rights – also known as CambodiaIP – confirmed in a statement.

Attending the meeting were CambodiaIP director and National Committee for Intellectual Property Rights (NCIPR) Secretariat chairman Suon Vichea, GI and agricultural standards consultant Sok Sarang, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) expert Peter Damary, and Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD) specialist Jean-Marie Brun, it noted.

The statement indicated that the product would be able to be traded under the GI-protected name in either rock or ground form, or as “fleur de sel” – a French term that translates to “flower of salt” – which forms as a delicate, flaky crust on the surface of seawater as it evaporates.

It also provided a provisional name for the association that loosely translates as “Association of Producers of GI-Tagged Kampot-Kep Salt”, and noted that the April 26 date for the “launch ceremony” had been chosen to coincide with World Intellectual Property Day.

Bun Narin, a salt producer and owner of Kampot-based Thaung Enterprisein Kampot province, ardently believes that the GI label will considerably push up the yields and prices of the salt, as well as international orders.

He told The Post on February 12 that exporters who ship “Kampot pepper” to Switzerland, the Czech Republic, the UK, Canada and elsewhere have visited localities associated with the salt, exploring the possibility of adding the prospective GI candidate to their portfolio.

Kampot pepper is the most highly-prized variety of these piquant berries cultivated in the Kingdom – grown in the namesake province – which remains the sole cultivar protected under domestic GI status.

Salt and pepper are mainstays in kitchens across the aforementioned countries, whereas fish sauce is used in “most Asian countries”, Narin said in jest.

He suggested that a successfully-executed marketing campaign could put Kampot-Kep salt and pepper, paired off together, on the map for quality and taste, stressing that “it would be an honour for Kampot-Kep to have more GIs”.

Its inclusion in the domestic GI registry would bring in new and former salt farmers to the trade with what are essentially price and market guarantees, increasing production potential, he claimed.

According to the plan, the commerce ministry and relevant departments on February 28 are to organise the first general meeting of the “Kampot-Kep Salt” association, to approve two key draft documents needed for GI registration – the Articles of Association and Book of Specifications, Narin revealed.

The president, vice-president and other senior members are set to be elected at the meeting, where attendees will make preparations for submission of the paperwork related to the association’s registration to the commerce and interior ministries, he added.

The details of the upcoming general meeting were confirmed by CambodiaIP.

Narin shared that salt stored in warehouses currently sells for 25,000-28,000 riel ($6.25-7.00) per 50kg sack, which is slightly higher than during the same time in 2022.

Late last month, Kampot provincial Department of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation director Sok Kim Choeun claimed to The Post that sufficiently high temperatures, minimal rainfall and otherwise favourable weather conditions over three consecutive months during the salt season could bring output up to more than 100,000 tonnes, in excess of annual domestic demand with plenty left for storage.

Estimates put annual domestic demand at 70,000-100,000 tonnes.

Kim Choeun commented that a GI label would mean positive tailwinds for salt farmers and the economy at large, adding that heavy rainfall and labour shortages in recent years have prompted imports of the condiment.

The Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation reported that the total area under salt production in Kampot and Kep provinces was 4,748ha in 2021 and had not significantly changed in 2022, with each hectare yielding an average of 20 tonnes each year under good weather conditions.