Cambodian traditional silk industry working boost and promote silk

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2016-03-11 17:30:00 – Phnom Penh

To boost silk production in Cambodia, Ngom Vanntha, the president of the NGO set up Color Silk center to train women how to weave, feed the silkworms, dye the silk and make scarves and skirts. The women are taught how to use German and Khmer dyes. The center founded in 2009 has around 450 families now as members.

The center provides its members with training and equipment, both standard and high quality, in order for them to make products for the international market. After doing a training course, the silk products they make is ready to be sold on the international market, Ms. Vanntha said. Of the products manufactured, 80 percent are exported and 20 percent sold locally.

One of the benefits of being a member of Color Silk is that the center supports them by finding markets for their goods, give them weaving material and buy the products at a reasonable price. Since they have more members, they can meet demand from countries in the EU, Denmark and Japan.

Ms Vanntha want this silk sector to be stable and provide more jobs and income to people. But a major problem faced was that there is not enough local silk fiber to not meet demand, so the organization imports it from Vietnam and China.

Men Sineoun, the director of the Artisan’s Association of Cambodia (AAC), said that Cambodia’s silk production has seen a drop in prices and local consumption in the last five years, while weavers, worm feeders and sales outlets have all suffered from the widespread use of pesticides. Some people involved in the business had also migrated to other countries to look for work, resulting in more imports to meet demand. Businessmen who buy silk also complain about the shrinking market.

Since the National Silk Board (NSB) was founded in 2014, little has been done to help boost the industry, Mr. Sineoun said that he is also a member of a national silk board, they have strategy, but not yet implemented, it is just plan to push silk fiber and boost the silk yarn. It is in plan, there is no any step toward it.

He added that Cambodia imports about 300 to 400 tons of silk fiber per year, while local silk producers make about 1 ton. Cambodia exports about $2 million worth of silk products every year. The NSB and AAC are also working to solve these problems and he added that to get investments in silk fiber takes a lot of time and capital.

Also they need capital and technology to grow and feed silkworms. They have skills and the members of the association have a lot of stores to boost and promote silk, but we can only do that with the end products of silk,” he added.

Mr. Sineoun said that in 2015, both locally and internationally, Cambodia sold silk products worth about $ 2.6 million per year, not very different from 2014. He added that some members in the AAC still have foreign markets to export their silk products to. He said that sales outside the country is not as strong as the previous year and there had been some decreases. The sales of silk products locally have been down due to a slowdown of tourists buying silk products from Cambodia. He added that in some seasons, silk sells well, while other seasons are not as good.

From February to July is the low season, but from August to January is the high season, and their products sell well. However in 2015, the low season lasted from February to early December and it was difficult to sell silk products. He added that sales have been increasing since last December.

Nhem Morokak, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the deputy of the NSB council in the commerce ministry said that the NSB is setting out a policy and strategy to boost silk products.

Silk in Cambodia is called gold silk, but some people migrate to work in another country and leave silk production as they think there is no market, so they have to create a market for them, Ms. Morokak said. They are lacking the raw material and experts. Silk is a heritage job.

In order to strengthen the market, they have to strengthen their silk. Once, there were about 20,000 silk producers, but now there are only about 5,000. Their silk is high quality and a high price, but it cannot compete with imported silk.

Tan Sri Dato, chairman of Maybank, said the bank was working to assist silk weavers. The Maybank Women Eco Weaves program, one of the

Maybank Foundation’s flagship programs, is essentially designed to promote commonalities in ASEAN in supporting the traditional weaving practice. They will build the Maybank Silk Weaving Training Center in Takeo with Maybank’s financial support to boost silk production in Cambodia. The training center will select about 50 women to train in weaving free of charge per year. Their efforts will help to enrich the lives of the women in the community in becoming economically independent as they work with Color Silk

In Cambodia, silk weaving is an ancient Khmer art and also a significant contributor to GDP. The majority of the silk production in Cambodia takes place in Takeo province.

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