The Ministry of Commerce has flagged “Kampot Fish Sauce” as a potential Geographical Indication (GI), and is keen to work with international organisations to build momentum and buzz around the condiment, and ramp up exports to the level of highly-acclaimed local specialties such as Kampot pepper.
Ministry director for Intellectual Property Rights Suon Vichea told The Post that a linked working group has recently gathered input from producers, traders and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) on the production of the GI candidate.
The group has also set up an interim committee to compile a booklet that presents a detailed profile on the production of the condiment, the managing association, internal regulations, the design and layout of the GI logo, and other pertinent information, he said.
The ministry will consult officials from the industry and agriculture ministries and local authorities in the compilation process, added Vichea, who is also director of the Secretariat of the National Committee for Intellectual Property Rights.
The Post understands that the commerce ministry, in collaboration with national and international experts of the EU-funded Arise Plus Intellectual Property Rights programme, have also held virtual discussions with the Kampot provincial Department of Commerce, as well as producers, traders and relevant SMEs in the province on the matter.
Vichea expects the ministry to complete the preliminary procedures by end-April, leading to the registration of the GI and official recognition – not necessarily on the same day.
Chan Sitha, CEO of E Chei Ngov Heng Food Production of Kampot, a well-known fish sauce maker, said the varieties of the condiment made in the province saw a surge in popularity during the Sangkum Reastr Niyum era between 1953-1970.
This was largely due to the distinctive flavour and aroma derived from the high-protein type of fish used, locally known as “kak koeum”, he explained. It was not immediately clear which specific species of fish the term refers to.
Founded in 1995 as a cottage industry in a cut-throat marketplace flooded with imported fish sauce, the business behind the “Ngov Heng Kampot Fish Sauce” brand has captured a 30-40 per cent market share in the capital’s supermarkets, Sitha claimed.
Bottles of the fermented seasoning are also distributed to other provinces, as Cambodian consumers turn to local products, he said.
The businessman shared his ambitions to bring Kampot fish sauce to the international market, saying he was pulling out all the stops to ensure that his products meet internationally recognised standards and are able to enjoy a worldwide resonance.
“We’ve been expanding, albeit slowly as we require a lot of funds, given that our main ingredient is organic fish that are available for just one season a year, obliging us to buy for stockpiles that constantly require larger areas,” Sitha said.
“If ‘Kampot Fish Sauce’ is registered as a GI, it’d be far more in vogue and easier to export.”