Financial institutions in Cambodia are growing more willing to loan to aquaculture stakeholders to stimulate exports as the Kingdom prepares to ship its first commercial batch of iridescent shark catfish to China.
This 40-tonne trial consignment, expected later this month, will mark Cambodia’s first formal aquaculture export and comes after the Kingdom signed a protocol with China in March on the requirements for shipping the shark catfish – also known by its scientific name Pangasianodon hypophthalmus – to Chinese shores.
Beijing has since authorised three fish farms and one processing enterprise-cum-exporter to produce and handle the batches of shark catfish destined for China.
Cambodia Post Bank Plc (CPBank) CEO Toch Chaochek told The Post on September 7 that his bank has agricultural loan products that focus on crop production and fish farming, the latter of which accounts for one per cent of total loan outstanding.
He revealed that CPBank on August 15 signed a wholesale loan agreement with the state-owned Agricultural and Rural Development Bank (ARDB) to provide credit to smallholder farmers of crops other than rice, as well as for fish farming.
“I hope that this collaboration will increase the number of aquaculture loans by 20 per cent, compared to years earlier. Through our cooperation with ARDB, we will grow even more,” he said.
Of note, CPBank reported that its agricultural loans grew about 20 per cent over 2021, which also includes the aquaculture segment.
ACLEDA Bank Plc president and group managing director In Channy told reporters on August 26 that agriculture accounts for around 20 per cent of his bank’s loan portfolio, the second highest of any sector, and is mostly represented by the rice, cashew nuts, corn, “sandek”, pigs and fish segments.
The Khmer “sandek” designation generally refers to the Faboideae legumes, which include most beans, peas, lentils and peanuts, but not tamarinds.
“Cambodia will export fish to China and all Cambodian investors have to pay for their investments in fish farming,” he said. “This is an area we are looking at right now to increase lending.”
The National Bank of Cambodia reported that the balance of loans from domestic banking and financial institutions to the agricultural sector as of March 31 stood at 19.5 trillion riel, or $4.8 billion, growing by 11.6 per cent year-on-year.
Meanwhile, the 40-tonne trial export of iridescent shark catfish has seen continual delays as Hun Ty Co Ltd, the sole company awarded the right to process and export the fish to China struggles to process the batch, according to a senior official at the Fisheries Administration (FiA) under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
This inaugural export is expected to provide substantial impetus for the aquaculture sector, as the government strives to maintain annual production growth at about 20 per cent, through the Strategic Planning Framework for Fisheries 2015-2024.
For reference, aquaculture production rose 30.25 per cent from 307,408 tonnes in 2019 to 400,400 tonnes in 2020, but dipped 13.0 per cent to 348,350 tonnes last year, according to the FiA.