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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Fish exports climb to $30m, but concerns grow over stock

Fish exports climb to $30m, but concerns grow over stock

Government officials say overseas shipments may have damaged local supply

CAMBODIA exported 30,000 tonnes of fish products worth US$30 million in 2009, according to government figures, but an official told the Post on Tuesday the shipments were putting pressure on local supplies.

The Ministry of Agriculture’s Fisheries Department reported Tuesday that 20,000 tonnes of fresh fish and 10,000 tonnes of processed fish went to international markets last year, an increase of 5,000 tonnes of fish over 2008.

“We do not want to export too much because we want to give an adequate supply to local demand,” said Sam Nov, deputy director of the department, without specifying the amount of fish needed for Cambodia itself.

The government has had to work to balance the rise in international demand for Cambodia’s fish products with the needs of Cambodians, for whom freshwater fish are a staple.

Cambodians brought in 465,000 tonnes of fish in 2009, according the Fisheries Department report. Of that, 390,000 tonnes were freshwater fish.

The total haul for 2008 was 365,000 tonnes, a more than 25 percent increase.

However, only 25,000 tonnes, worth $25 million, were exported – 17,000 tonnes of fresh fish and 8,000 tonnes of processed fish.

Cambodia exports elephant fish, grouper, lobster, crab and prawns, along with processed freshwater fish. Buyers include Australia, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, the US and Vietnam.

Sam Nov said the government would not stop exporting fishery products, but that the amount of products for export would depend on what’s left over.

Cambodia’s demand for domestic fish is rising at the same time as demand from abroad, especially by Vietnam and Thailand, and some companies have begun capitalising.

Canada-based Nautisco Seafood Manufacturing began operations in September 2009 at a $4 million processing plant in Preah Sihanouk Province.

At the time, company officials said they hoped to produce 30 tonnes of frozen prawns per day, or up to 500 tonnes per month, a dramatic increase over Cambodia’s typical shrimp catch.

In total, Cambodia pulls 365,000 tonnes of prawns from the sea, and farms an additional 100 tonnes per year. Nautisco said it hoped to ship prawns to Canada, Eastern Europe, Japan, Russia and the US.

It is too early to predict what this year’s catch will be, analysts said.

Thau Kimsreang, president of Thau Kimsreang Import Export, which shipped about 300 tonnes of processed fish last year, said that the government does not encourage the export of fishery products.

“We do not think that in 2010 our company will be able to export as much fish as last year,” he said.

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