Seventeen fisheries enterprises are set to receive investment packages from CAPFish Post-Harvest Development Project (VCIS) totalling around $500,000.

VCIS funding comes from the UN Industrial Development Organisation for Cambodia (UNIDO Cambodia) under a grant from the EU in cooperation with the Fisheries Administration (FiA) under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The investment packages were announced in an event presided over by agriculture minister Veng Sakhon and was attended by representatives from UNIDO Cambodia and roughly 100 participants from the enterprises and other stakeholders, held on July 5 in Phnom Penh.

UNIDO Cambodia representative Sok Narin said at the ceremony that prior to these investments, UNIDO had supported 40 post-harvest fisheries enterprises through technical assistance, analysis of business issues and preparation of business project proposals.

Of those 40 enterprises, 17 were approved for investment funding by the Joint Investment Commission, which is composed of project staff and independent experts and done through a transparent and participatory process.

“Today, we are here to congratulate these enterprises and start the implementation of business proposals,” he said.

Narin said that through the investment packages from this project, these enterprises will receive support on business management training and constructing facilities for processing fisheries products. They will also receive additional training on food safety and compliance with the Cambodian Quality Seal (CQS) to prepare for the CQS certification audit at or before the end of 2022.

“This certification could be a new face for quality and safety in Cambodian fisheries products,” he said.

The Joint Investment Committee is also examining the remaining enterprises’ proposals for the second round of selections. He stated that UNIDO fully supports the government and all stakeholders in bringing Cambodian fisheries products to the EU and to world markets.

Sakhon congratulated the 17 enterprises that met the requirements of the VCIS. He said that the investment package handed over to the 17 enterprises today totalled about $500,000 – not including the additional free technical support.

“I hope these enterprises will contribute to improving Cambodia’s food safety system and the reach of our exports to international markets, including the EU market,” he said.

Sakhon said the agriculture ministry has fully supported the FiA in establishing a fully competent authority that can meet the requirements of the regional and international food safety management system.

“Our next major goal is to strengthen the capacity of the FiA [agents], along with food safety systems and regulatory equipment, to meet the expected export demand for fisheries products to the EU as expected and we will do it by the end of 2024,” he said.

Citing its recent survey, UNIDO said most of the players in Cambodia’s fisheries chain are micro- and small family businesses that have not yet been properly registered and more than 85 per cent of all of these enterprises are located at the Tonle Sap Lake and coastal provinces.

The enterprises produce a wide range of fisheries products in limited hygienic conditions and most are low value-added, lack product diversification and have low market competition.

Lim Bunny, the owner of Thoeun Srey Ny Fish Handicraft in Kampong Cham province’s Cheung Prey district, said she has been processing dried fish for more than 10 years and selling it in the communities of the province and to some supermarkets in Phnom Penh.

“In my line of work, we have dried fish, regular fish paste [phaok] and prahok – a ubiquitous pungent-smelling fermented fish paste used in a wide variety of local dishes. But we are more focused on producing dried fish from the snakehead and catfish families,” she said. “We collect these fish from people who raise them in Cheung Prey district.”

Bunny said she is excited about the investment packages because each enterprise, including her own, will receive equipment such as solar-powered machines for drying the fish, refrigerators and other equipment for use in their businesses with a total budget of around $25,000.