Competition From Vietnam May Bankrupt Two Seaweed Firms

The export of Cambodian seaweed to Vietnam may force two Kam­pot province companies into ban­kruptcy, as they are unable to com­pete with the higher prices paid for seaweed by their more com­­petitive neighbors, officials said on Wednesday.

Chhing Sarin, owner of Cam­bo­dia Seaweed Co, and Sok Raden, a ma­nager for Star Private En­ter­prise, said that local seaweed farmers in Kampot are choosing to sell their produce to Vietnamese brokers who pay $550 per ton, compared to the $450 to $500 the Cambodian firms offer.

Chhing Sarin said he would have to sell his company, as the seaweed being “smuggled” to Vietnam had cost his company $20,000 in losses.

Estimating that 70 percent of Kampot sea­weed was now being sold to the higher-paying buyers from Viet­nam, Chhing Saran ac­cused local sea­weed farmers of not honoring con­tracts under which they were taught how to grow and harvest sea­weed on the condition that they sell their produce exclusively to his firm.

“The middlemen plant nothing for seaweed. They only collect dry seaweed products from farmers and ship them to Vietnam by boats,” he added.

Sok Raden said he hoped Kam­pot’s new governor, Thach Khorn, would take a more hard-line ap­proach to seaweed farmers’ selling to buyers from Viet­nam.

Senator Chhit Kim Yeat, vice pre­si­­dent of the Senate’s ninth com­mis­­sion, which deals with fisheries, valued the country’s seaweed in­dus­try at about $3 million per year.

Rice farmers earn around $500 per year but seaweed farmers are earning as much as $2,000 annually, said Chhit Kim Yeat, adding that more competition should be introduced into the seaweed business.

He also questioned why the Mi­ni­stry of Agriculture’s Forestry De­part­ment has granted seaweed companies, such as Sok Raden’s Star Pri­vate Enterprise, a monopoly over sea­weed production and sales across thousands of hectares of coastal waters.

“I request that the Forestry De­part­ment take back that land so it can be used for any user’s interests,” he said.


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