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Cambodia’s fish consumption up despite supply, market challenges

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Agriculture minister Veng Sokhon visits a fish farm in Kampong Chhnang province’s Rolea Bier district on June 16. Facebook

Cambodia’s fish consumption up despite supply, market challenges

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries announced that fish consumption in Cambodia has increased, with one person consuming on average 52.4kg of fish per year.

Fish consumption by people in low-lying areas has also increased, with the population there consuming 75.6kg of fish on average per person each year. The increase came despite challenges related to fish supply shortages and market demands in the country.

In a press release on June 15, the ministry said that based on preliminary figures from the general census completed on March 3, 2019, the Cambodian population was 15,288,489 – an increase of 14.1 per cent over 11 years since the last census in 2008.

The larger population has increased demand for fish even further, and during the Covid-19 pandemic the government encouraged people to implement aquaculture projects in 11 target provinces, including four provinces hit by flooding.

The government encouraged the raising of catfish and frogs in plastic bags because the method is cost-effective.

The ministry has also cooperated with the Cambodian Aquaculturist Association to implement the National Strategic Plan for Aquaculture Development 2016-2030. As a result, aquaculture production in 2020 increased more than 30 per cent compared to 2019.

“Human resources related to aquaculture work are sufficient for the aquaculture sector in Cambodia currently. Aquaculture specialists have received training at home and abroad and in turn have trained farmers in these skills so that they can raise fish in almost every province,” it said.

The ministry acknowledged that fish supply in Cambodia had not proven sufficient to meet market demands without the use of imports. The challenges with supply could not yet be addressed because of a few factors including a decline in natural fish populations, differences in managing fish markets in Cambodia and competition in domestic markets.

The other challenges included complicated inspection mechanisms for fish imports and the rules related to quantity, quality and other obligations for importers. Also, the private aquaculture investment sector in Cambodia still had a lack of capital and knowledge regarding market demand research at home and abroad.

Domestic transport prices for imports, service prices in production, expensive processing and stocks were also ongoing challenges, the ministry said.

Aquaculturist Song Dina, who raises fish and frogs in five ponds on 3ha in Dauntei commune of Tbong Khmum province’s Ponhea Kraek district, acknowledged that fish consumption had increased year after year. But he said the fish being supplied to the market by Cambodian producers was not in demand because of the fish imported from Vietnam.

He said fish imported from Vietnam cost only 4,000 riel ($1) per kilogramme, while Cambodian fish farmers had to price their fish higher and that if fish imports from Vietnam were banned, then fish raised in Cambodia would sell for higher prices.

Dina noted that it took only two months to raise fish in Vietnam, but Cambodian fish farmers spent up to five to seven months to grow the same fish which required a lot more feed for them.

Agriculture minister Veng Sakhon told The Post on June 16 that relevant institutions must join the ministry in addressing the issue.

“There are many intricacies involved in solving theses problems. How can the agriculture ministry be expected to fix this alone? It is not possible. Several ministries [and stakeholders] must work on this together,” he said.

Sakhon said his ministry had the role of teaching farmers the techniques for raising fish, while other ministries had the role of developing a market for the farmers to sell their produce. He noted that the agriculture ministry had often been expected to step into this role and provide assistance as well.

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