Upon receiving the Cambodia Quality Seal (CQS) for food safety, Suong Sophoan, who founded his namesake dried fish enterprise Kampong Thom province’s Stoung district, intends to boost monthly production from 500-2,500kg.

Sophoan made known of his expansion plan during a study tour and promotion event for fisheries enterprises benefiting from the CAPFISH-CAPTURE post-harvest fisheries development project, hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on September 18.

His enterprise, located in Kampong Chen Tbong commune’s Kampong Chen village, was founded in 2011 and officially registered with the provincial Department of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation in 2017.

He said that in the past, the traditional method of producing dried fish involved sun drying, which took up to two and a half days. However, this process was susceptible to spoilage and financial loss in the event of rain and could not meet market demand.

Over the past two years, with enhancements in the location of processing equipment and adherence to CQS standard – a certification scheme owned by the Department of Fisheries Post-harvest Technologies and Quality Control (DFPTQ) under the agriculture ministry’s Fisheries Administration (FiA) – Sophoan said the production of dried fish has become faster and more hygienic.

It now takes less than a day to complete the drying and packaging process, resulting in time savings.

Production has increased from 500-700kg per month, and he anticipates that production will exceed 2,000kg per month following the receipt of the CQS certificate.

“Before joining the project, I used to dry my fish products outdoors in sunlight. This meant that if flies or rain were present, I often faced issues such as spoilage and shortages for my clients.

“Additionally, my staff lacked uniforms, a designated washing area, and a clear understanding of proper hygiene practices before commencing their work,” he said.

He stated that upon learning about the CAPFish-Capture project, he promptly applied and received assistance. This assistance included a dryer, water purification system, fish tank, refrigerator, automatic packaging machines, blenders, and a three-door refrigerator.

Sophoan highlighted that producing high-quality dried fish in accordance with technical standards serves the dual purpose of safeguarding consumer health and mitigating the risk of food borne illnesses.

Sim Sereyrath, co-founder of Home Taste Food Enterprise in Siem Reap, another producer of dried fish, reported that since her enterprise obtained CQS certification, her production has significantly improved, now averaging more than 3,200kg per month.

She also mentioned an inquiry from an Australian buyer interested in purchasing about five tonnes of dried fish in a single container.

They intend to place orders every two to three months, provided there is sufficient supply, Sereyrath added.

“The buyer requires us to store the dried fish in frozen containers. They mentioned that if we can’t fulfil an entire container, they are willing to accept half a container, which amounts to 500 cases, approximately five tonnes,” she said.

She said the CQS standard serves as a foundation for applying other standards. Notably, it bears similarity to the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) standard, suggesting that successful implementation of the CQS might facilitate the application of other standards.

Khem Chakrya, the coordinator of the CAPFISH programme, said collaboration with the private sector has empowered businesses to rejuvenate and expand their enterprises.

This, in turn, can result in the recruitment of additional personnel and salary enhancements to bolster productivity.

“Through their involvement in the project, they have gained a deeper understanding and improved the well-being of their employees. In terms of society, the enterprises now produce safe products for the market,” she explained.

The agriculture ministry, in collaboration with the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), launched the study tour and dissemination of CAPFISH on September 17.

The event will run until September 20, covering locations in Phnom Penh and provinces of Kandal, Kampong Thom and Siem Reap.