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Fisheries exports struggling to remain afloat, need gov’t push

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The Kingdom exported 1,372 tonnes of fisheries products to the international market in the first half of this year. Heng Chivoan

Fisheries exports struggling to remain afloat, need gov’t push

Cambodia exported 1,372 tonnes of fisheries products to the international market in the first half of this year, sinking around 80 per cent from 8,710 tonnes in the same period last year, a Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries report said.

Fresh products accounted for 1,140 tonnes, or 83.1 per cent, which was down 79.1 per cent from the 5,460 tonnes recorded in the first half of last year. Processed products accounted for just 232 tonnes, or 16.9 per cent, which plummeted 93 per cent on a year-on year basis.

Minister Veng Sakhon told The Post on Tuesday that the government is actively pursuing to boost aquaculture, expand domestic supply capacity and increase exports in the long-term.

He added that the government plans to technically and financially support between 50,000 and 100,000 families to raise fish and frogs in plastic tents, which can produce young in just three months.

“I believe that through these efforts, the private sector will be able to acknowledge that Cambodia is able to step up its hatchery rearing methods to upgrade fisheries exports to the international market to match its needs.

“We need to reinforce our breeding and growing systems to meet [international] standards as the government leadership improves the freight forwarding industry,” Sakhon said.

In the first half of this year, freshwater fisheries harvests reached 165,230 tonnes, up 1.62 per cent year-on-year, while marine fisheries were 57,160 tonnes, up 1.10 per cent, ministry data show.

Fish and shrimp aquaculture accounted for 135,415 tonnes, or 82.0 per cent, a year-on-year gain of 20 per cent. Revenue from fisheries-related services totalled 341,484,360 riel ($83,000)

The ministry’s Fisheries Administration director-general Eng Chea San told The Post that most of Cambodia’s fisheries products is exported to Vietnam and Thailand.

He said the Kingdom’s fisheries output is set to explode in the next two-to-three years buoyed by a nationwide boom in aquaculture, most notably along the coast and the Tonle Sap river.

Heng Matine owns a farm called Vihear Suor in Khsach Kandal district’s Vihear Suor commune in Kandal province which is home to more than 50,000 Cantor’s giant soft-shell turtles (Pelochelys cantorii).

Though there is high demand on the market, he said, fewer people are farming the turtles, due to the large volume of imports from neighbouring countries, especially Vietnam.

Matine told The Post: “Imported Cantor’s soft-shell turtles cost less than domestically grown ones, bringing down local farming by more than 50 per cent within the last two years or so.”

He described the average Cantor’s soft-shell turtle sold on the market as being one-year-old, weighing 1kg and costing $10. Those weighing less than 1kg can cost around $7-$8.

He called on the government to boost domestic production, create new jobs for farmers and increase incomes.

He estimated that the Kingdom’s demand for the soft-shell turtle is about four tonnes per day, of which around 60 per cent is imported from Vietnam.

“I ask the government to help curb the import of Cantor’s soft-shell turtles so that local farmers can expand their breeding capacities to meet market demand and provide additional investment capital.

“The Cantor’s soft-shell market is very hot right now, especially among Chinese consumers,” Matine said.

Cambodia exported 14,100 tonnes of fisheries products to the international market last year, down 2.25 per cent from 14,500 tonnes in 2018.

The Fisheries Administration reported that it expects aquaculture production in the Kingdom to yield 740,000 tonnes in 2024, through the implementation of the Strategic Planning Framework for Fisheries 2015-2024 and the National Strategic Plan for Aquaculture Development 2016-2030.

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