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.