Salt farmers in Kampot and Kep provinces say that production almost doubled this year as the annual rains arrived late, causing droughts in parts of Cambodia.
Farmers growing rice and other crops were hit when the 2015 rainy season began months late, with rains not beginning in earnest until June.
However, Bun Bariang, co-executive of the Kep-Kampot Salt Producer Community, said that traditional salt producers had benefited from the extended dry season. About 4,500 people in the coastal provinces are employed in the salty craft, using the sun to dry out pools filled with sea water, which leaves a residue of edible salt.
“It was dry from January till June. It was dry for a long time, so we manage to produce 17 tons of salt this year,” he said. Only 9 tons of salt were produced the previous year, he said.
Hul San, who has been a salt farm worker for 20 years, said he hoped that 2016 would see a repeat of the late dry season.
“If it rains, we will not get that much production. The salt would melt,” he said.
In the salt farm where Hul San works, 2,000 tons of salt was produced in 2015, compared to just 1,000 tons in 2014.
“It depends a lot on the weather,” he said. “If it is dry, we could produce a lot of salt, but if it rains the salt will be scarce.”
Salt producer Bariang told VOA Khmer that the increased production had led to a decline in the price of salt from $80 per ton to $50 per ton.
Local demand for salt is about 10 tons per year, meaning that producers could look to export some salt. However, although salt production is increasing, Bariang said, Cambodian’s salt industry still faces challenges competing with salt produced in Thailand and Vietnam, where modern and more efficient production techniques are employed.
“The [Cambodian] salt farmers do not have enough money. We still are limited by the salt production technology,” he said.