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Japan pledges to boost silk industry

Sok Chan / Khmer Times Share:
Silkworms munch on piles of locally-grown mulberry leaves. Reuters

A Japanese beauty company is to invest in Cambodian silk production to supply the local market and export to Asia and the United States.
Il Brille, which runs two beauty salons and a shop in Phnom Penh, uses silk in cosmetic treatments and products for customers.
Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak last week met the CEO of the Japanese company and encouraged it to invest in the local silk industry, which he said is at risk of collapse.
Kazunori Kato 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.
He said 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 the training will help to reduce the reliance on imports of raw silk from Thailand and Vietnam in future.
Mulberry trees are now a rarity in Cambodia – most of them having been destroyed during the Khmer Rouge era. Silk weavers in Banteay Meanchey, Kandal, Takeo and Phnom Penh’s main silk producing area of Koh Dach have no choice but to import raw silk from either Vietnam or Thailand.
There is also a lack of skilled workers because many Cambodian silk producers have migrated to work in neighboring countries.
Mr. Sorasak said investment from the Japanese company would help diversify Cambodian silk production and generate more jobs for women in rural areas.
“The investment will bring transferrable knowledge and experience to Cambodia,” Mr. Sorasak said. “Il Brille specializes in silk products including lotions and shampoo.
“Their project to boost silk production in Cambodia will be carried out with the support of the Japan International Cooperation Agency,” he added.
Hean Vanhan, director-general of the Agriculture Ministry’s general directorate of agriculture, told Khmer Times 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,” Mr. Vanhan said. “But our local silk industry has almost collapsed due to cheap imports from neighboring countries.”
Mr. Vanhan said 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. He said 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 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.
“What we are doing now is to strengthen the capacity silk producers,” Mr. Thora said.
Men Sinoeun, executive director of the Artisans Association of Cambodia, said the demand for raw silk in the country’s cottage silk weaving industry was about 100 metric tons a year, while local production was only one metric ton a year.
“We have to import raw silk, if we want the cottage industry to survive,” said Mr. Sinoeun. “Our association will be affected if there is no local silk to supply the production chain. Therefore, to make our production work, we decided to import from foreign countries.”

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