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Illegal imports sinking local aquaculture

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Fresh fish caught in the net in Kandal province. While local aquaculture has started to grow significantly in recent years, the business community is increasingly facing competition from illegal imports, according to the Cambodian Aquaculturist Association (CAA). Heng Chivoan

Illegal imports sinking local aquaculture

While local aquaculture has started to grow significantly in recent years, the business community is increasingly facing competition from illegal imports, according to the Cambodian Aquaculturist Association (CAA).

The CAA on April 27 expressed concern on social media that the import of fisheries products to compete with local products in an unfair and inequitable way, combined with the dishonest business practices of a handful of people, will harm local aquaculture.

CAA president Sok Raden told The Post on April 27 that the illegal importation of large quantities of aquaculture products from neighbouring countries on a daily basis is a constant source of difficulties for local farmers.

These difficulties could mar the government's plans to boost production capacity to meet domestic demand and have enough to spare for export, he said.

He added that illegal imports not only generate losses of tax revenue for the state, but also skirt suitable quality-control measures and originate from dubious breeding sources, which could harm consumers' health.

"Illegal imports with unclear quality control not only undermine plans towards exporting Cambodian aquaculture products to international markets, but even the breeding operations that serve domestic needs could face bankruptcy," he said.

He encouraged importers to stock up on fish from local farmers and limit imports to products that locals cannot produce.

However, he acknowledged that Cambodian aquaculture products could be slightly more expensive than in neighbouring countries due to the Kingdom's well-organised environment, water control and high-quality feed.

According to Raden, Cambodia is well-capable of supplying some species of fish, especially “pra” (Pangasius djambal), “po” (Pangasius larnaudii), “andeng” (catfish of the Clarias genus), “chdo” (giant snakehead or Channa micropeltes) and “kranh” (climbing perch or Anabas testudineus).

Kandal, Pursat, Kampong Thom, Prey Veng, Siem Reap, Kampong Cham, Tbong Khmum and Takeo provinces now account for the majority of the Kingdom's fish farms, he said.

The owner of a fish farm in Kampong Cham province's Batheay district, Phan Phirum, who has eight ponds on an area of 6ha with an average production capacity of 7,000 tonnes per year, said the import of fish from Vietnam that can be produced domestically has had a very negative impact on local fish farmers.

He encouraged importers to wait after farms had all sold their harvest before bringing in fisheries from abroad.

"The situation with the Covid-19 outbreak has severely affected fish farmers in Cambodia because it is difficult to sell, due to the large imports from neighbouring countries," he said.

He added that the problem is universal across all fish farms and may cause farmers to quit the business.

Aquaculture production stood at 400,400 tonnes last year, up 30.25 per cent from the 307,408 tonnes posted in 2019, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reported in December.

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