Cambodia Fresh Farm’s plans to export tilapia to Japan early this year have been pushed back until the end of next month due to logistical issues, according to its CEO.

Chav Soursdey, CEO of Cambodia Fresh Farm and Rainbow Progress Enterprise Co Ltd, a company that raises, processes and sells tilapia, told The Post that higher shipping costs due to a shortage of cold-storage facilities means that exporting frozen unprocessed fish now would hardly be profitable.

As a result, the company must consider drying, smoking or canning the tilapia to cut costs and keep the fish from spoiling while being transported in standard shipping containers, or alternatively, steaming the cichlids in banana leaves, in a local process known as “amok”, he said.

He opined that processing methods must have elements of Japanese style to be more palatable to the market’s sensibilities.

According to Soursdey, potential Japanese buyers have been inquiring into the tilapia, and orders are set to pick up next month, from shops, Cambodian associations and others based in the East Asian country.

He said frozen unprocessed tilapia exports would be reconsidered depending on the success of these initial shipments.

Hav Viseth, deputy director of the Fisheries Administration (FiA) under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, told The Post that the FiA has provided Cambodia Fresh Farm with “a lot” of technical and market consulting support to aid in its quest to export tilapia to Japan.

The farm’s infrastructure and technology is qualified to export to Japan, he assured, adding that it uses modern processing equipment that inspires consumer confidence in their goods.

Viseth highlighted the vast potential of tilapia on the Japanese and international market, noting that the fish is occasionally dubbed “water chicken”, as some consume it as regularly as the ubiquitous bird.

“Tilapia is a fish with a wide market around the world. Take a peek at our ASEAN peers, including Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia – they export a bunch of tilapia.

“Hopefully, once Cambodia Fresh Farm is able to successfully export this fish to Japan, we’ll encourage them to buy tilapia from our farmers as well, as fish farming is currently on a steady rise,” he said.

According to the ministry, aquaculture production surged at an annual average of 19.9 per cent from 60,000 tonnes in 2010 to 307,000 tonnes in 2019, and then rose to 400,000 tonnes in 2020 before falling down to 348,000 tonnes last year.