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Seeking help in aquaculture

May Kunmakara / Khmer Times Share:
Tilapia fish grown in a Cambodian hatchery. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The government has asked Japan to support the development of fish hatcheries in Cambodia to boost production and curb reliance on fish imports.

Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon on Wednesday raised the possibility that Japan lends its expertise to the local aquaculture sector during a meeting in the ministry with a delegation of members of the Japanese parliament, which was led by Jun Tsushima.

“We suggested that the Japanese government could support us improving the operation of a fish hatchery in Preah Sihanouk province, and setting up a freshwater fish hatchery to improve the livelihoods of our farmers and boost fish production,” the minister said.

In response to the request, Mr Tsushima said that he will raise the issue back home and find ways of attracting more Japanese investors to the Kingdom’s aquaculture sector.

Shetty Seetharama Thombathu, chief technical advisor for the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), said Japan’s aid in the sector could prove a big help, as Cambodia’s fish production is not sufficient to meet local demand.

“There is huge potential for investment on marine fish seeds, particularly those of high demand marine fish varieties such as shrimp, sea bass, grouper, shrimp and crabs.

“Domestic demand for seeds is high also for freshwater high-demand fishes, such as tilapia, common carp, Chinese carps, Indian carps and silver barbs,” Mr Thombathu said.

He stressed that the local aquaculture sector is in need of quality seeds. “Fish hatcheries in Cambodia are not capable of producing enough seeds to meet the demand. So, we need more investments in hatcheries – both freshwater and marine hatcheries.”

Demand for fish in Cambodia is skyrocketing, and will continue to increase due to rapidly rising incomes and tourist numbers, he explained. “The fish production within the country is not enough to meet the demands, so we are importing fishes.

“Mere dependence on capture fisheries is not sustainable and the amount of wild fish catch is almost stagnant. To overcome this situation, the only way to meet the demand will be through sustainable aquaculture,” he said.

Mr Thombathu pointed out that the European Union is preparing to implement a new fisheries development programme, CAPFish, Running from 2019 to 2023, it boasts a budget of 135 million euro ($153.7 million).

“This programme supports the government and private sector in building sustainable fisheries management and control systems, including aquaculture, post-harvest fisheries and private sector support,” he said.

The CAPFish programme will also strengthen fishery export framework and infrastructure, facilitating exports to neighbouring countries and beyond, he said, adding that through Japanese investment and EU’s development grants, Cambodia could become a net fish-exporting nation by 2023.

In April, Chinese-owned Jin Yu Tang Aquaculture Co announced plans to invest $100 million in freshwater and seawater aquaculture projects in Preah Sihanouk and Koh Kong provinces to feed local and international demand.

According to an annual report from the Ministry of Agriculture, 16,625 tonnes of fish were caught in Cambodian rivers in 2017, while 121,025 tonnes were fished at sea.

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