Every year, traders and farmers travel from the provinces to Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district to buy fish to produce prahok paste, but with this year’s prahok season ramping up, high prices have pushed many of them to camp in tents along the riverbank, waiting for prices to drop.
Farmer Nheb Vansi, 69, from Kandal province’s Koh Thom district told the Post yesterday that the high prices were persisting despite ample catches.
“This high fish price is not caused by the lack of fish, but because of big traders . . . We cannot compete with them, because we don’t dare to buy the fish at high prices like this,” she said.
She said that 1 kilogram of fish cost about 500 to 700 riel more than last year, ranging up to 2,200 riel (a bit more than $0.50) per kilogram.
She and five other villagers hoped to produce 5 tonnes of prahok to be shared among their families and neighbours and have been staying near the riverbank for three days waiting for prices to fall.
Similarly, Sun Vanna, 35, from Takeo province, said that she produces 5 tonnes of prahok every year, but was taking a different approach than Vansi. This year, she has been purchasing the fish at night, when vendors drop their prices to about 2,000 riel per kilogram.
“I produce prahok, and also sell it at the same time [in Phnom Penh], so that I can earn more money to produce more fish paste; I will not wait like other people. [The prahok season] will last only two or three weeks, and I can earn about $2,000 [during that time],” she said.
According to her experience, 3 kilograms of fresh fish are needed to produce 1 kilo of prahok, which is produced by first drying the fish, then fermenting it in salt.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries expects hauls of the fish used to make prahok to reach 140 tonnes in 2017, roughly 5 tonnes more than last year. This includes fish from aquaculture operations and rice-field fishing.
According to an evaluation by the ministry, the fish stocks in the Tonle Sap have been good this year due to improved weather conditions and the effectiveness of crackdowns on illegal fishing that have recently been implemented.
The prahok season lasts from January to February, with the best fishing seen near Phnom Penh and Kandal province.