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South Korea eyes Kampot fish sauce imports

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Commerce minister Pan Sorasak (second from left) brings a delegation of the Korea Importers Association (KOIMA) to a Ngov Heng fish sauce production facility on December 3. COMMERCE MINISTRY

South Korea eyes Kampot fish sauce imports

South Korea is looking to import Kampot-style fish sauce from prominent maker E Chei Ngov Heng Food Production of Kampot, more commonly known as just Ngov Heng, after the Cambodia-Korea Free Trade Agreement (CKFTA) took effect on December 1, according to a commerce ministry statement.

Keen to boost sales of Cambodian fish sauce to the Korean market, Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak on December 3 brought a delegation of the Korea Importers Association (KOIMA) to a Ngov Heng fish sauce production facility and the company’s Ngov Heng Market retail outlet.

Among the delegation were KOIMA vice-president Jang Gyu-hwa and Gadosh Korea Co Ltd CEO Lin Yu, the statement mentioned. Ngov Heng would not be the first Cambodian enterprise whose fish sauces stock the shelves at South Korean grocery stores, others such as Phnom Penh-based Thai Hong Kiet have been on the market for many years.

The minister stressed in the statement that the visit would provide the delegates a clearer picture of the enterprise’s products, production and marketing processes, and possibly other potentially important attributes.

Sorasak encouraged the delegates to leverage Cambodia’s trade agreements, including the CKFTA, ASEAN-Korea Free Trade Agreement and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to boost trade between the Kingdom and South Korea.

KOIMA’s Jang underscored Ngov Heng fish sauce’s potential on the Korean market for daily consumption, especially as an ingredient in kimchi – a traditional fermented food, originally from Korea, that can be made from cabbage, radish, cucumbers and other vegetables.

“KOIMA will do its utmost to make this a reality as soon as possible,” the statement quoted him as saying.

Ngov Heng founder and CEO Chan Sitha was cited in the statement as saying that the enterprise was started in 1995, and became the first in Kampot province to be officially recognised as meeting the national standards, in 2003.

In 2017, the enterprise won a medal at an agri-processing competition, and established the Ngov Heng Market. The following year, it received five awards from the Ministry of Mines and Energy, as well as HACCP certification for adhering to international food safety standards.

Most recently, Ngov Heng received certification for Cambodian halal standards from the ministry’s Consumer Protection, Competition and Fraud Repression Directorate-General, Sitha said.

He attributed the success and popularity of Ngov Heng and its products to three main factors – quality “kakoem” fish; quality Kampot salt; and traditional fermentation processes.

It was not immediately clear which specific species of fish “kakoem” refers to, but an official source listed ray-finned fish such as the silver-stripe round herring (Spratelloides gracilis) and Indian anchovy (Stolephorus indicus) as examples.

“To become a leading food processing company in Cambodia, the enterprise has a mission to create modern traditions that maintain high levels of quality, safety and hygiene for consumers.

“The company aims to develop new premium products and those for the more health-conscious, and in particular, to strengthen and expand production capacity to meet demand from domestic and international markets,” he said in the statement.

Sorasak also recommended Ngov Heng learn and gain new techniques and experiences from the South Koreans to improve the quality and other standards of its products that are bound for international markets, as well as to ramp up productivity.

Ngov Heng’s main products are Kampot-style fish sauce, soy sauce, chilli sauce, oyster sauce and Hoisin sauce, which currently stock the shelves of supermarkets across the country such as AEON, Lucky, Chip Mong, Bayon and Makro.

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