The natural silk industry in Cambodia is on the verge of extinction as a result of widespread use of pesticides that have damaged the health of silkworms. Thus, producers have had to rely on imported synthetic fibers to meet the demand.
Executive director of the Artisan’s Association of Cambodia, Men Sinoeun, said global demand for the luxury fiber in recent years has remained between 300 and 400 tons, while the production of natural silk in Cambodia has continued to fall, dropping to only one ton a year, The Cambodia Daily reported.
Sinoeun said on the sidelines of a trade expo in Phnom Penh that the problem lies within the extensive use of chemicals on farms. “The production of golden silk is very little because our villages use chemicals on their rice crops and in agriculture, which badly affects the silkworms [resulting] in people changing from this work to things like growing cassava or migrating to other countries like Thailand,” he said.
He continued, “More importantly, no one can cure the health problems of the silkworms. We are very worried about losing our Khmer identity,” Cambodia Daily reported.
Deputy director of the National Silk Center, Meas Sorphorn, said silkworms living in polluted environments produce poorer quality and smaller amounts of silk.
Sorphorn added that an unhealthy silkworm can produce up to 100 meters of thread in its lifetime of about 20-24 days, while a healthy silkworm can produce nearly five times that.
Advisor to the International Trade Center, Sisowath Pheanuroth, explained that the organization has been working with the Commerce Ministry to launch a national silk board by early next year to create policies set to revive local production.