Kampot, Cambodia’s leading salt producing province, is expected to yield less of the commodity than reported last year on adverse weather conditions, provincial Department of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation director Sok Kim Choeun told The Post on March 8.
With just over 20,000 tonnes of salt delivered during the ongoing harvest season in the province, prospects are dim for a repeat of last year’s 85,000-tonne result, he lamented.
According to Kim Choeun, Kampot’s salt marshes cover 3,726ha – unchanged from last year.
With neighbouring Kep province producing 20,000 tonnes of salt last year, nationwide yield was more than enough to cover the Kingdom’s annual 100,000-tonne demand, he said.
Salt production in Kampot and Kep covered 4,748ha in 2019 and employed 5,000 workers, the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation said in a report. With suitable weather conditions, each hectare can yield 20 tonnes of salt per annum, it said.
Kim Choeun noted that hot weather and other favourable climatic factors prolonged last year’s harvest to August in Kampot and Kep – which would span from January to May most years – leading to the lofty yields.
He said: “The salt collected in Kampot this year will not be as much as last year. Just at the start of March, there were already two unexpected showers – during the dry season. One in particular that took place on the night [of March 7] will cause the salt harvest to be suspended for quite a while.
“If it rains in the next few days, we won’t collect anything at all in March,” he said. “[But] should the weather remains favourable for three or four months in a row, the salt harvest will not be spoiled.”
Bun Narin, a salt producer in Kampot, said March-April marks the peak harvest season each year when temperatures rise, but March 7’s rains had washed away some of the salt.
While labour force and cultivation area are not as pressing an issue for the salt industry as they were in 2020, he said the rains had arrived much sooner.
“Without any downpours from now until May, I don’t expect Cambodia to face the type of salt shortages that require large-scale imports as it did a few years ago. This year’s yield will be very similar to last year’s, according to forecasts,” he said.
He said salt now costs 11,000-13,000 riel ($2.75-3.25) per 50kg sack, close to last year’s prices.
In 2014-2016, Cambodia harvested more than 100,000 tonnes of salt each year, before tumbling for three consecutive years in 2017-2019.
The government authorised the salt-processing community to import 30,000 tonnes of the commodity in 2019 citing a paucity of salt, according to the ministerial report.
But according to Kim Choeun, the Cambodia imported just around 10,000 tonnes of the allotted amount, as optimism in early 2020 surrounding the year’s salt output ground the purchases to a halt.