Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodian fish exports to EU expected to start

Cambodian fish exports to EU expected to start

Cambodian fish exports to EU expected to start

PG13-Story-1.jpg
PG13-Story-1.jpg

Cambodia hopes to begin shipping fish and fish products to European Union members next year, but still lacks sufficient health and safety regulations

HENG CHIVOAN

Fishermen unload their catches of prahok earlier this year outside of Phnom Penh.

THE government hopes to begin exporting freshwater fish to the European market next year, but urgent steps must be taken to improve  quality control measures to meet the EU's exacting safety standards, fisheries officials say. 

"We are still learning about the kinds of regulations and standards that are required," Nao Thuok, chief of the Ministry of Agriculture's Fishery Administration told the Post on Monday.

The EU demands very high food safety standards that are beyond Cambodia's capacity, but the Kingdom is actively exploring ways to improve.

The European Commission inspected the fisheries sector in 2005 and has since extended technical assistance to Cambodian authorities on food legislation.

Officials here hope this will allow the government to decide what actions are needed to secure access to the EU market for Cambodia's fish and fish products.

"If we can meet the EU standards, we can sell our food products to anywhere in the world," Nao Thuok said. Currently, Cambodia exports fish to Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. According to Nao Thuok, there are about 30 local companies that export fish, an industry he estimated was worth around US$40 million a year.

Song Heng, who is employed by the local fish export company Lian Heng Investments, said the company currently ships some 2,000 tonnes of fish to the US, but is eager to expand sales to  Europe as soon as possible.

"We still cannot export to the EU market, because they require that the [Cambodian] government fulfils certain inspection requirements to comply with their standards," Song Heng said.

System failures stall exports

Rafael Dochao Moreno, charge d'affaires of the delegation of the European Commission, said that before a Cambodian company can export fish to any of the EU's 27 member states, the government has to demonstrate that it has the necessary legal powers and resources to ensure credible inspection and controls throughout the production chain.

Moreno explained that fish products may only be imported into the EU if they have passed through facilities such as cold storage, processing plants, factory vessels and registered freezer vessels, all of which Cambodia currently lacks.

 "As long as Cambodia's system for fisheries production and processing is not recognised, no exports can take place," Moreno told the Post by email on Wednesday.

"The problem is therefore not one of a particular product failing to meet specific standards, but one of the system as a whole failing to meet the system requirements," he added. 

Other issues are the lack of legislation governing  the quality of fish and fish products, and insufficient oversight of fish production and marketing chains, including inspection and certification schemes, Moreno said.

The EU is the largest importer of fish and fisheries products in the world, taking in US$23 billion worth products from non-EU countries in 2007.

MOST VIEWED

  • Stock photo agencies cash in on Khmer Rouge tragedy
    Stock-photo companies selling images from S-21 raises ethics concerns

    A woman with short-cropped hair stares directly into the camera, her head cocked slightly to the side. On her lap is a sleeping infant just barely in the frame. The woman was the wife of a Khmer Rouge officer who fell out of favour, and

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the