Salt producers must now add iodine to their product or face losing their business licence after the government passed a Prakas banning sales of non-iodised salt.
The move aims to tackle iodine deficiency, which is considered the leading preventable cause of intellectual and developmental disabilities in the world.
Cham Prasidh, the Minister of Industry and Handicraft, made the announcement on Friday during a workshop on the use of a new label for iodised salt.
“All salt producers must add iodine to their salt, from now until end of the year,” the minister said. “If any producer fails to abide by the Prakas, they will face legal action or will have their business licence revoked temporarily.”
Bun Baraing, vice-president of the Kampot-Kep Salt Assocation, told Khmer Times yesterday that all members in his association have been warned to make sure their salt is iodised before it hits the market.
He said all local brands of table salt are iodised, and that only imported products fail to contain the critical substance.
“We are one hundred percent sure all our salt is iodised because we have the backing of Unicef,” Mr Baraing said. “If our salt did not contain iodine, they wouldn’t allow us to sell it.”
Debora Comini, Unicef’s representative to Cambodia, said adding iodine to salt has been compulsory in Cambodia since 2003, but added that large amounts of non-iodised table salt are sold illegally.
“This situation poses risks to children’s health and development. It could affect the intellectual development of millions of children,” Ms Comini said.
According to Unicef, iodine is an essential component of a proper daily diet, contributing to a healthy thyroid function.
Mr Baraing said his association is making all necessary preparations to adapt to new regulation regarding the new label for iodised salt, which must now be displayed in all table salt packages.
According to Mr Baraing, salt production this year will probably be insufficient to meet domestic demand due to unfavourable weather conditions that have kept farmers away from the salt fields and unable to harvest the product.
“We have stopped producing salt already,” said Mr Baraing. “We won’t be able to produce more this year because the rainy season is now beginning.”
“We’ve never seen weather like this,” he lamented, adding that they have collected “nearly nothing” this season due to the adverse weather conditions, and that they will have to rely on 50,000 tonnes of the commodity stored from previous years to feed local demand.
The country’s annual salt requirement is between 80,000 to 10,000 tonnes. Mr Baraing said they will likely have to import salt from overseas to meet that demand.
Salt harvests are conducted in the coastal provinces of Kep and Kampot, with 4,657 hectares of land used for harvesting the commodity and 200 farmers working on them.