Mulberry trees are now a rarity in Cambodia as most of them having been destroyed during the Khmer Rouge era. Silk weavers in Banteay Meanchey, Kandal, Takeo and Phnom Penhâ€™s main silk producing area of Koh Dach have no choice but to import raw silk from either Vietnam or Thailand. Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak said that investment from the Japanese company would help diversify Cambodian silk production and generate more jobs for women in rural areas.
A Japanese beauty company II Brille to invest in Cambodian silk production to supply the local market and export to Asia and the United States. The company runs two beauty salons and a shop in Phnom Penh, uses silk in cosmetic treatments and products for customers. Il Brille specializes in silk products including lotions and shampoo.
The investment will bring transferrable knowledge and experience to Cambodia,â€ Mr. Sorasak said. Their project to boost silk production in Cambodia will be carried out with the support of the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
Kazunori Kato CEO of the Japanese company told the minister, the company will try and develop silk production in Cambodia to supply silk products locally and to buyers in Asia and the United States. His company has already sent staff for training in Thailand on how to grow mulberry trees and raise silkworms. Silkworms only eat the leaves of the white mulberry tree.
Mr. Kato said that the training will help to reduce the reliance on imports of raw silk from Thailand and Vietnam in future. There is also a lack of skilled workers because many Cambodian silk producers have migrated to work in neighboring countries.
Hean Vanhan, director-general of the Agriculture Ministryâ€™s general directorate of agriculture, said that cosmetic uses of silk are becoming more popular and could be a lifeline to an industry that has almost been wiped out.
Previously, silkworm farming was only associated with silk weaving. But their local silk industry has almost collapsed due to cheap imports from neighboring countries.
Mr. Vanhan said that the ministry will work with the Japanese company to research how best to grow the mulberry trees and raise silk worms. The company will train workers while the ministry will supply land for the farms. The project will help boost the living standards of farmers who traditionally only grew rice.
Mao Thora, secretary of state at the Commerce Ministry and chairman of the Cambodia Silk Sector Development and Promotion Commission, said that the commission has been working hard to boost the industry.
It has produced documents about silk in Khmer to instruct producers on how to feed silk worms, maintain a healthy environment for worms to grow, and ensure silk production is of a high enough quality to satisfy local and export markets.
According to Men Sinoeun, executive director of the Artisans Association of Cambodia, the demand for raw silk in the countryâ€™s cottage silk weaving industry was about 100 metric tons a year, while local production was only one metric ton a year.
Their association will be affected if there is no local silk to supply the production chain. Therefore, to make their production work, they have to import raw silk, if they want the cottage industry to survive and hence they have decided to import from foreign countries.
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