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Catching an industry in Koh Kong

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Cheng Chhun, owner of Cheng Chhun Seafish Farm, proudly displays one of his fish at his farm in Koh Kong province. Photo by: SOEUN SAY

Koh Kong Province
CAMBODIA is increasingly turning to fish farming in order to meet domestic demand. The business can be lucrative, but faces hurdles such as requiring substantial investment and know-how, according to Cheng Chhun, owner of the Cheng Chhun Seafish Farm.

Dozens of fish farms hug the shore in the Mondul Seima district of Koh Kong province, but Cheng Chhun’s is the largest, with eight ponds on a nine-hectare farm. Each pond contains between 5,000 to 10,000 fish, with a single pond worth of fish taking some six months to mature and fetching between US$30,000 and $40,000.

“Ten years ago, I imported fish from Thailand to sell in our country,” he said. “During that time, I though that if I raise fish in my country, I will receive more profit from the business.”

Cheng Chhun said he started off with little knowledge about raising fish. He spent four months learning the process from experts in Thailand and Malaysia, and then invested over $30,000 to start his farm eleven years ago.

He runs his business without formal training or certification, instead learning through trial and error. “I have only practical research conducted by myself and my friends.”

“I dreamed of becoming an animal raiser, raising sea fish and shrimp in Cambodia,” he said. “Now my dreams have become true – my business is a success.”

The farms sells between 200 and 500 kilogrammes of fish daily, but the quantity can rise to as much as 1.5 tonnes during Cambodia’s festivals. Prices have increased this year – grouper fetches around 40,000 riel per kilogramme, while snapper costs 16,000 riel.

Cheng Chhun’s farm is surrounded by other fish farms, many of which are still under construction. He claims he provided assistance, in particular by sharing methods of raising the staple food, to ensure his neighbours do not have to depend so much on trial and error.

In return, he is able to purchase fish from his neighbours when he is sold out and unable to meet demand. Often, couples who are planning their weddings in the capital will make the trip to Koh Kong specifically to purchase his fish, and he does not want to send them home empty-handed.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Chan Sarun has visited the farm twice, certifying the farm as a “Model Sea Fish Raiser,” according to Cheng Chhun.

The farm had initially exported fish to Thailand, but increase local demand and higher domestic prices meant it had served only the Cambodian market since 2005.

“My fish are sold at shops, restaurants, hotels and local markets, with most of my clients in Phnom Penh. They always order my fish, especially for wedding parties,” he said.

He plans to add four ponds by next year. Businesses from China, Malaysia and Thailand have visited his firm and offered to form a joint venture, but he said the Cheng Chhun Seafish Farm will remain
independent.

“I want to run my business alone. I want to be independent,” he said.

Cheng Chhun would like to resume exports to countries such as Thailand and Vietnam, but says that domestic business has kept him too busy as yet to begin shipping abroad.

Fisheries Administration Deputy Director General Sam Nuov said the government would not halt exports of fishery products, but instead planned to earmark for export what was left over from domestic
consumption.

Domestic demand for the staple food is rising at the same time as demand from abroad, led by Vietnam and Thailand and some companies have begun capitalising, he said.

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