Cambodian government looks to revitalize its rapidly declining silk sector with a new development strategy to make local sericulture more modern, sustainable and inclusive. The strategy aims to move toward producing high-value silk products in order to create jobs and reduce poverty in rural communities, especially among women, officials said during a recent industry event.
Mao Thora, secretary of state for the Ministry of Commerce and chairman of the Cambodia Silk Sector Development and Promotion Commission, said that a government-led initiative will seek support from international donors and investors to rebuild the nationâ€™s flagging silk industry.
Thora said that they want to find investment partners because right now silk is a family scale business and the export is [minimal] because the quality is poor.
The commission has drafted the strategy with the support of the Ministry of Commerce and technical assistance from the International Trade Centre (ITC), part of the World Bank Group. No budget or agenda has been announced.
However, the ITC, which has worked closely with Cambodiaâ€™s silk industry since 2003 and helped local producers access international markets, confirmed it will be a donor for the initiative.
Xuejun Jiang, chief of ITCâ€™s office for Asia and the Pacific, said that his organization prioritized Cambodiaâ€™s silk sector because the majority of the countryâ€™s 20,000 weavers are women. Another reason is because, based on many studies, they have concluded that silk is a product that has good potential for export.
They have been working closely with many companies in the silk sector but only the private sector can make trade happen, of course this will require the strong support and commitment of the government.
Government support, as well as international donor commitments, has been crucial to the success of Artisans Angkor, which operates a silk farm and workshops in Siem Reap province and is one of the countryâ€™s largest producers of silk products.
Earlier projects aimed at improving silk breeding techniques, designing training programs, encouraging local cultivation of mulberry trees â€“ the silkwormâ€™s food source â€“ and trade promotion.
Vidano Kernem, secretary-general of Artisans Angkor said that one of its latest efforts was to establish centres to breed silkworm species most [suitable for] Cambodian soils and weather conditions.
He further added that Cambodiaâ€™s silk industry future depends on the cultivation of sufficient mulberry trees to feed silkworms that produce high-quality silk, and for producers of this silk to develop creative designs that attract both local and international clients.
The future growth of the silk industry will partly depend on the sustainability of each component of the value chain.
The success of the research to breed the right species of silkworm that shall produce a high yield of silk threads and the accessibility and availability of the eggs to Cambodian breeders is essential to ensure availability of quality Cambodian silk threads at competitive cost to the producers.
Cambodia currently imports 300 tonnes of silk annually to meet market demand, which Mey Kalyan, senior adviser of the Supreme National Economic Council, argues could be produced locally.
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