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Bid to invest in silkworm farms taking shape

Sok Chan / Khmer Times Share:
A worker spins pure silk on a loom. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Six month after announcing its intentions to invest in local silk production, a Japanese beauty company, in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, has released a new study on silkworms and their potential for the cosmetics industry, paving the way for more concrete action to further investment plans.

In April this year, Il Brille – a company that specialises in silk products including lotions and shampoo – said it was planning 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.

Hean Vanhan, the director-general of the Agriculture Ministry’s General Directorate of Agriculture, told Khmer Times that the company, working with the Ministry of Agriculture, had recently completed the study. Six silkworm species have been chosen to be raised as part of the project.

“Moving forward, we are currently studying the areas of the country where farmers already grow mulberry trees. We are not interested in finding new places to grow the trees, but rather we want to use places where farmers are already growing it,” Mr Vanhan said.

Mulberry trees are now a rarity in Cambodia – most of them were 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.

Mr Vanhan said that cosmetic uses of silk are becoming more popular and could provide 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 neighbouring countries.”

Mr Vanhan appealed to farmers and investors to increase the number of silkworms and mulberry trees grown in the country and encouraged silkworm farmers to seize opportunities in the rapidly expanding cosmetics industry.

“We will conduct further studies on what type of silkworm adapts best to the local climate,” Mr Vanhan added.

Kazunori Kato, Il Brille’s CEO, said his company has already sent staff for training in Thailand on how to grow mulberry trees and raise silkworms. He said the training will help to reduce the reliance on imports of raw silk from Thailand and Vietnam in the future.

Mr Vanhan said the ministry will supply land for the farms, adding that the project will help boost living standards for farmers who traditionally only grow rice.

“To build trust, we will request the company to sign contract farming agreements with the farmers,” Mr Vanhan added.

“We will continue our hard work to bring more jobs into Cambodia and further the economic development of the people and the country.”

Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak said in April that the investment from the Japanese company would help the local silk industry, adding that the 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.

Mao Thora, a secretary of state at the Commerce Ministry and chairman of the Cambodia Silk Sector Development and Promotion Commission, said the commission had 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 of silk producers,” Mr Thora said.

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