Local craft makers to brand products

Siem Reap’s craft makers will begin trademarking their products to differentiate them from foreign-made competitors, in an attempt to capture a larger share of the US$70 million spent each year on souvenirs in the province.

Area craftsmen claim that a large proportion of the estimated 1.6 million visitors to Siem Reap last year bought foreign-made products imported to profit from the province’s large tourism market.

The trademark would serve to authenticate local work, people familiar with the initiative said.

“We’ve made this trademark because visitors to Cambodia want local products, but they don’t know what’s real and what’s not,” Angkor Handicraft Association president Net Sam Orn said this week.

To solve the problem, AHA will now stamp locally made products with an “Angkor Handicraft” label to certify the products’ origin.

AHA craft makers work in a stable of 25 products, including those made from silver, wood, reed grass, stone and silk.

Craftsmen will pay US$0.07 to have stamped products that cost between $1 and $5, and $1.80 for products priced between $400 and $1,000.

A ceremony to launch the initiative will be held today in Siem Reap, organised with help from the German development agency GIZ and the backing of provincial authorities.

Net Sam Orn said tourists in Siem Reap spent $70 million on souvenirs every year, and a significant number of the crafts are imported.

“We hope after this trademark that handcraft enterprises in the province will see more stability in their businesses and that we’ll see more development of the province’s economy,” he said.

GIZ officials said research had shown most tourists could not tell the difference between locally made and imported products, resulting in a loss of revenue for the local economy.

“According to our survey, most foreign tourists love Khmer products, but 80 per cent say they don’t know them well enough to tell them apart from products imported from overseas,” Heng Khim, a coordinator at GIZ, said.

“So my organisation pushed for the establishment of the trademark.”

Heng Khim said he expected the trademark to help drive sales of local products, a sentiment echoed by Thoeun Kimny, a trade promotion official at the Ministry of Commerce’s Siem Reap office.

“Foreign visitors like Khmer souvenirs, but we’re not seeing the same kind of revenues as foreign products,” he said, adding that the trademark should help to boost local production of souvenirs.

Siem Reap craftsmen applauded the move, saying the trademark would spark greater interest by tourists in their work.

The increased revenue would help local workers, many of whom were poor, Soam Sovann, who makes reed-grass baskets and other souvenirs, said.

“I think the benefits will fall to the poor or the craft-makers, which is better than seeing the revenues go to foreign countries,” he said.