The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries estimated a five per cent increase in fish production this year, attributed to the relevant authority’s diligent measures.

As the prahok season commenced, agriculture minister Dith Tina visited a fishing community in Tapov village, located in Koh Chen commune in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district, on December 19.

“The minister emphasised that the ministry inspects fish products annually, and this year, fish production is estimated to increase by around five per cent compared to last year. This is largely owing to effective collaboration in combating illegal fishing with a high level of responsibility,” said the ministry in a social media post following the visit. 

According to Tina, at the beginning of the prahok season, approximately 70 per cent of fish to be found are the Trey Slak Russey (Paralaubuca riveroi) species, 10 per cent are made up of Chhviet (Pangasius macronema), and the remaining 20 per cent comprise various other species.

The minister urged the producers of prahok – a ubiquitous pungent-smelling fermented fish paste used in a wide variety of local dishes – to adhere to the sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) technical guidelines and international export standards.

He noted that traditional methods are still predominantly used in prahok processing. However, there are small and medium enterprises (SMEs) producing dried prahok to meet market demand, seeking quality and safety certification to enhance trust and add value for exports.

Tina mentioned that last year, the ministry initiated a prahok processing competition, supported by Conferel, a prominent wholesaler of contest anticipated this year.

The ministry indicated that the prahok season typically lasts from October to February, varying with the water conditions of the Tonle Sap Lake. On clear days, particularly between December and January, commercial stationary trawl fishery – known locally as dai – can yield substantial catches.

Chea Channy, a 35-year-old resident from Svay Rieng province, while waiting to buy fish at a collection point, said she travels there annually to purchase fish for producing prahok, which she supplies to her community.

She said she purchased over 700 tonnes of fish last year, but is uncertain about this year’s quantity as the season has just begun.

Her prahok is usually distributed to Ratanakkiri, Kratie and Siem Reap provinces, as well as some areas in Phnom Penh.

At the season’s start, she purchased fish from Dai 15 at a cost of over 1,000 riel per kilogramme (about $0.24).

Channy has noted a decline in her sales over the course of 2023. 

“Normally, I manage to sell all my prahok by year’s end, but this time, I still have some remaining from the previous season,” she said.