Government plans major hatching programme to develop local market in bid to cut imports
THE government has waded deeper into the crustacean trade with plans to hatch 1 million baby freshwater lobsters by late October.
The juveniles will be sold to domestic farmers looking to rear them for the local market, thereby cutting the need for imports.
Haing Leap, the deputy director of the Department of Fisheries at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, told the Post on Thursday that the Takeo provincial fisheries department had hatched 300,000 baby lobsters since June.
He said the centre sells 45-day-old lobsters to farmers for US$0.06 each.
"We want to encourage farmers to raise baby lobsters because we expect they will be able to supply them to local markets," Haing Leap said.
In no more than five years' time we will be able to cut lobster imports.
He added that just 10-20 tonnes of wild freshwater lobsters are caught locally each year, with 3 tonnes a day brought in from Vietnam to satisfy demand.
Breeding areas diminish
Haing Leap blamed the low number of locally caught lobsters on environmental changes and the loss of sheltered areas where breeding females could lay eggs.
"We hope that if Cambodian farmers are interested in rearing lobsters, then in no more than five years' time we will be able to cut lobster imports," he said.
Prum Vath, a lobster farmer in Takeo province's Angkor Borei district, plans to raise 200,000 baby lobsters for the local market before the end of the year.
He said it takes a minimum of six months to raise them, at which point he sells them for US$15-$20 a kilogram.
"Rearing baby lobsters poses no problems because they are easy to look after and it is easy to find markets," the farmer said.
Another farmer told the Post that 3 percent of lobsters die before reaching maturity.
Haing Leap at the Fisheries Department said the hatching season runs between June and October, adding that farmers need at least 1.5 million baby lobsters.
"If farmers can raise 1-1.5 million lobsters a year, then that will supply local markets with 60-90 tonnes of lobster each year," he said.
Haing Leap said that in 2005 the Japanese government funded a five-year, $5 million project to teach lobster-rearing skills to farmers in a number of the Kingdom's provinces.