A new US-funded programme seeks to strengthen food security in the country by developing the local aquaculture industry.
Funded by the US Department of Agriculture, the Commercialization of Aquaculture for Sustainable Trade (CAST), will boost local production of freshwater fish, the main source of protein for Cambodians.
With a capital of $17 million, the programme will run for five years.
It focuses on increasing access to fish seeds and feed, and seeks to strengthen all links in the value chain, from hatcheries and producers to buyers and distributors.
Cambodia will benefit from increased confidence and access to high-quality fish grown in Cambodia, produced and handled with proper standards, said Michael A. Newbill, chargé d’ affaires at the US Embassy.
In addition, the national economy will benefit as Cambodia joins a global market as a consumer and supplier of locally raised, high-quality freshwater aquaculture products, he added.
He explained that the United States supports Cambodia’s agriculture industry in many areas but that the CAST project is unique because it uses an abundant resource – soy – and utilises it as a feedstock for Cambodia’s growing aquaculture industry.
“The CAST project’s goal of increasing aquaculture production is in line with the Ministry’s policies and will improve Cambodian livelihoods. Importantly, it will also reduce pressure on wild capture, which currently accounts for 76 percent of total fishery production.”
He pointed out the importance of fish in the local diet. “Research shows that fish make up 76 percent of the animal protein consumed by the average Cambodian, making Cambodians the largest consumers of freshwater fish per capita in the world.
“Still, malnutrition remains a huge problem in Cambodia, with many households considered food insecure. That is why the CAST project is so significant: it will strengthen Cambodia’s food security by developing Cambodia’s aquaculture industry all along the value chain.
“The result will be increased production of a locally-raised, high-quality protein source – once that Cambodians enjoy eating.”
He said that by connecting trade and development, CAST will support sustainable and long-term growth in aquaculture and will link US and Cambodian producers.
“It will promote food security and economic growth in Cambodia and build ties between our two countries,” he added.
Veng Sakhon, the Minister of Agriculture, said the project represents a big contribution to national economic growth.
“In 2018, Cambodia imported 24,000 tonnes of seafood, mostly shrimp, crab, lobster, and fish products. Recently, we have been able to reduce these imports because we are expanding our aquaculture industry.
“This $17-million project will cover five provinces around the Tonle Sap river, reducing poverty and improving people’s living standards,” Mr Sakhon said.