Heatwave Hits Seaweed Growers

Kampot’s seaweed growers have been hit by a price drop of 1,000 riels per kilogram after the extreme heat of April devastated their harvest
Chea Sokha, a seaweed grower and seller in Kampot. Kiripost/Meas Molika
Chea Sokha, a seaweed grower and seller in Kampot. Kiripost/Meas Molika

KAMPOT PROVINCE - The price of seaweed has dropped 1,000 riels per kilogram, from 4,500 to 3,500 riels, with seaweed growers and sellers claiming the cost drop started during the dry season.

Chea Sokha, 37, a seaweed grower and seller of seven years, said before he used to be a fisherman, but re-entered the seaweed industry a year ago due to the devastation of seaweed during Covid-19.

He added that during the pandemic, villagers who used to earn income from selling seaweed were shut down and only started their business again in 2022.

“We have just started again 1.5 years ago. Previously we had lost a lot of money because fish eat it [seaweed] and it doesn’t grow well,” he said.

Seaweed in Kampot. Kiripost/Meas Molika
Seaweed in Kampot. Kiripost/Meas Molika

The seaweed is usually sold to Vietnamese brokers to produce jelly and rubber, as well as for other purposes.

He said he buys seagrass varieties from Vietnam and Malaysia. He then cuts it into small pieces, ties it with wood sticks and puts it in the sea so it can grow.

In one month, the seagrass is big enough to harvest and sell at the market or to brokers.

He needs to spend 300,000 riels to hire people to tie the seaweed in 100 lines each time in a month. He said he used to earn about 2 million riels per month.

One line consists of 3,000 seaweed tied with the rope. For one day, paying one person to help tie the seaweed cost 60,000 riels.

Seaweed can grow every month throughout the year. However, the extreme hot weather during this year’s dry season hampered growth.

“We grow it every month without selecting which months to plant it. But over the previous month in the hot season, it was so hot that we could not harvest it well because it grew so slow,” Sokha said as he dried seaweed.

Occasionally, if the seaweed grows well and in good condition, farmers can harvest about 300 kilograms of seaweeds a month. In contrast, if the seaweed's condition is poor and it has been eaten by fish or died because of the heat, the quantity declines by about half.

Sometimes, he still needs to go find shells to earn extra incomes beside selling seaweed as nowadays he can earn about 1.5 million riels profit.

Per line of rope, there are about 1.5 tons of seaweed that total 500,000 riels per one ton as it costs 50,000 riels per kilogram. He bought the seagrass from abroad for the first time, but plans to breed seaweed in the future for further cultivation.

Sokha said growing seaweed is not difficult as they grow independently. Also, he only needs to visit the seaweed every few days and when it is big enough to harvest and sell.