Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon held an ad hoc meeting with fishery officials and the Cambodian Aquaculturist Association on December 14 to discuss the matter of promoting domestic aquaculture produce and reducing imports amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The promotion of aquaculture was also in line withPrime Minister Hun Sen’s recent recommendations, in which he regarded “agriculture as the heart of Cambodian people”, Sakhon said in a Facebook post after the meeting.

He directed the Fisheries Administration to work closely with the association to assess the domestic supply and production capacity, as well as how they could increase the capacity and quality of aquaculture products.

He also suggested that the Fisheries Administration collect statistics on aquaculture farms and information on domestic supply and demand.

He urged the Fisheries Administration to disseminate farming techniques and administrative and reference documents to all members of the association. They should work with the association to stop the illegal importation of aquaculture products.

Fisheries Administration, he said, should set up networking platforms for sellers and producers to maintain a healthy balance of production supply and demand. They should study farming techniques and innovation to ensure the local aquaculture industry reaches a healthy state, prosperous and sustainable.

Sakhon recommended the association to be unified among themselves and increase raising all kinds of fish, shrimp, turtle, and frog to meet local demand.

The association should form a wide network and correctly apply the techniques from breeding and feeding to marketing work. They must abide by the production standards which promote competitive advantage, he said.

“The association should be active in promoting, encouraging, supporting, and spreading the news on demand, quantity and price widely within the association.

“They should cooperate with Fisheries Administration to promote domestic aquaculture and stop illegal aquaculture product import,” Sakhon said.

Sok Radan, president of Cambodian Aquaculturist Association, said the ad hoc meeting came following complaints from aquaculturists about the import of tonnes of fish.

“Many people are raising fish and they have complained about the import of the same kinds of fish from abroad. I sent the request on behalf of the association to the agriculture minister to stop the import of catfish and frog,” he said.

Radan said since its establishment in June this year, his non-profit association had registered more than 200 aquaculturists in six provinces around the Tonle Sap lake. The association was formed to share information and farming techniques acceptable by the local market and possibly for export in the future.

Hong Vannak, an economic researcher at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that now is the time to implement best practices on agriculture in Cambodia. He said currently the cooperation between agriculturist and government institution was limited.

“If we raise fish locally and follow good national standards, I believe our product is better than imported products which we could not control. Every day, local demand is huge but the supply is not enough, even for pig,” he said.

Vannak urged relevant authorities to teach aquaculturists more farming technique for the purpose of improving their product quality. He said that only by improving the product quality can the import be stopped.