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COVID-19 impacting livelihood of silk weavers in Kandal

Huon Dina / Khmer Times Share:
Lok Seyha weaves silk at Prek Bangkang village in Kandal province. KT/Huon Dina

A group of villagers who produce Khmer silk products in Prek Bangkang, in Kandal province’s  Khsach Kandal district are worried about losing their jobs due to a drop in sales amid the pandemic.

As the COVID-19 crisis still remains, people in the village, whose livelihood depends on weaving and selling handmade silk products, said if the silk product sales keeps falling, they will have to stop weaving which is the only means they have to earn a living.

Before the pandemic impacted the world, their products were sold to foreign tourists, national event organisers, silk sellers and wedding planners. But now, they have to reduce production because of falling orders.

Sitting at his loom, Lok Seyha, a silk weaver at Prek Bangkang village said since the COVID-19 started to impact Cambodia’s tourism, not even a single tourist has come by to buy silk products for souvenirs.

He said that a few of his customers who have bought his silk garments are unable to sell them in their shops.

Seyha said he will be forced to cut down on making his products such as silk sarong, silk scarfs and sell the rest at discounted prices.

“If we now sell the silk products at the original price, there will be no one to buy,” he said.

According to Mey Kalyan, chairman of the board of trustees at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), and the main person behind the Silk Research Centre, 400 tonnes of silk products are produced in the country every year, most of them made of white silk which has to be imported.

Cambodia only has gold silk from its silkworms.

Seyha said most of his while silk raw material is imported from Vietnam.

“We have reduced the amount of raw material imported to 10 percent due to the falling number of customers,” he said.

He added he only imports white silk as his family home-grown mulberry trees and self-raised silkworms only provide gold silk.

Another silk weaver in Prek Bangkang village, Heng Naicheng said most of her raw material is imported.

“Thirty percent of the silk I use are from my own trees and worms and 70 percent is imported,” she said.

Just like Seyha, Naicheng said she has cut down on importing raw silk as she has reduced production. She said she now only gets a single customer once or twice a week.

“Sales have decreased since COVID-19 struck and the government banned public gathering as well as events organising,” she said. “There are no weddings or ritual celebrations which require people to buy silk garments like Hol and Phamuong.”

Naicheng said she wants to temporarily stop production while as the COVID-19 situation remains.

According to Choub Srors, Prek Bangkang’s village chief, there are 21 families who produce silk products to make a living.

Related to the issue, Seang Thay, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce said yesterday the ministry has a number of mechanisms to help such weavers, such as encouraging them to join government-backed associations or communities, especially by the Ministry of Commerce and other relevant institutions.

“In addition, the Ministry of Commerce has a project called AIMS that helps connect weavers using gold silk with a company which supplies products to local and foreign markets”, he said.

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