Despite government efforts, Cambodia’s aquaculture sector continues to face challenges in competing with fish imports from neighboring countries, with some farmers and local businesses attributing the problems to agriculture market accessibility and fluctuating prices.

While the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries are implementing various strategies to address issues in the agricultural sector as a whole, some in the aquaculture industry said that processing fish into standardised products could be a key solution to expand Cambodia’s fish market and improve the lives of farmers.

In Kampong Cham province, a handicraft business has emerged as a catalyst for expanding the fish market in one district. By processing agricultural products into dried goods that meet high market standards, the business has successfully sold these products to factories and supermarkets in Phnom Penh. The owner, Thoeun Srey Ny, expressed her dedication to developing a “robust” market for the entire community.

Having evolved from a family-run operation, Srey Ny recently registered as an enterprise and now strives to strengthen her market presence. Her business primarily focuses on processing prahok (a ubiquitous pungent-smelling fermented fish paste used in a wide variety of local dishes), pha’ak (a fermented-fish product containing sticky rice) and smoked fish.

She sources raw materials such as andeng (catfish of the Clarias genus), pra-type shark catfish, and chdo (giant snakehead) directly from Cheung Prey district. In addition to her processing skills, she aims to establish a local fish market. By promoting the quality and cleanliness of raised fish, she strives to make the community aware of the superior attributes of these products.

Presently, Srey Ny’s enterprise produces approximately 200kg of various dried fish per day. However, the economic downturn has affected production, leading to a 30 per cent decrease compared to previous levels. In addition to processing smoked fish, she also sells fresh fish.

These fish reach the market through three channels: direct sales to markets and supermarkets in Phnom Penh, supplying factories in Cheung Prey district, and through resellers who collect them from her premises.

Despite the existing market avenues, Srey Ny believes there is room for expansion. Ambitious and eager for wider recognition, she strives to showcase the high standards and hygiene of Cambodian handicraft products. Cambodian goods often remain underrated, prompting her determination to continue advocating for greater acknowledgment. Furthermore, Srey Ny plans to develop standardised packaging for vegetables, fruits and fish, aiming to further contribute to the community’s welfare and address unemployment.

Processing fish holds a special place in Srey Ny’s heart due to the “lack of market” for local fish farmers. By offering employment opportunities to farmers after they finish farming, she said her processing enterprise serves as a valuable source of additional income.