Kapok fiber in Cambodia is considered as an eco-friendly material, which local farmers have benefited from as an additional source of income for decades besides rice cultivation.

The tropical trees, which reach 15 meters tall when fully grown, are thriving and abundant in areas along the Mekong River, sparsely dotted in Kampong Cham province.

Normally, farmers climb trees to pick Kapok pods by using long rods. One tree can bear approximately 1500 pods per season, and these could yield around 40-50kg of fiber after machine fluffing. April and May are the harvest months in which the pods are fully ripe.

Traditionally, Cambodia suppliers do not make any products from the fiber. Instead, they sell the raw material to local traders or export them to Vietnam, Thailand and China.

“We will be facing shortage in kapok supply in the future. This is because many famers had cut down on kapok planting, and shifted to growing mango trees instead because there is higher demand for mangoes domestically and for export. In addition, kapok prices have gone really low, which range from 500 to 600 riels per kilogram,” said Ron, a supplier in Prek Por village, Kampong Cham province.

A kapok tree is fully grown within 4-5 years then its fruit can be harvested to make fiber. Some famers even sell a kapok tree for 10 dollars to traders to extract resin. “Not only kapok timber, fiber, and resin can be utilized. Even its leaves, seeds and shell can be sold around 600 riels per kilogram to make incense sticks, animal feeds and soap,” Ron said.

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About the author – Leanghort Sok

Leanghort Sok

Leanghort Sok (Vephea) is a Hinrich Global Trade Leader Scholar. He got a full scholarship for Master of Arts in International Journalism Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University in 2015.

He is currently a Sales Coordinator for Export Assistance Program Cambodia, undertaking a one year extended internship as part of the Work Integrated Learning program of the Hinrich Foundation. His internship will help better prepare him for a trade-related career in Cambodia after graduation.

Formerly a News Reporter for Cambodian News Channel (CNC TV), Leanghort also worked as a staff member at the Cambodian Mekong Bank.