Seabass farming under spotlight

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Minister Dith Tina during his visit in Preah Sihanouk. DITH TINA VIA FB

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Dith Tina advised farmers to step up cage and pond farming of lates perches and groupers, and recommended that the Fisheries Administration study the possibility of obtaining new fish varieties from the Marine Aquaculture Research and Development Centre (MARDeC) in Preah Sihanouk province to meet market demands.

This aims to promote local species for sale to fish farmers.

The minister’s suggestions were made as his working group inspected the production line at a fish farm area in Mondul Seima district’s Bak Khlang commune of Koh Kong province on November 26.

He commended farmer Chheng Chhun for his ability to study the market and devise a fish farming plan which successfully met its demands.

Chhun has been practicing fish farming since 2002. He now receives additional support from the Agriculture Services Programme for Innovation, Resilience, and Extension (ASPIRE), making his business even more successful.

“[FiA] should consider using fish species from [MARDeC] to feed on farms. I want specialist officials to support fish production in line with the demands of the market. This will promote local species and convince more farmers to purchase them,” said Tina.

According to a report by the Koh Kong provincial agriculture department, 19 households in Bak Khlang commune are farming fish in an area which supports 52 cages of 816sqm.

They produce 4.4 tonnes of grouper per year, with over half being harvested and sold for up to 35,000 riel ($8.50) per kg.

They also grow nine tonnes of lates perches, which sells for up to 27,000 riel per kg.

On November 27, the minister visited Peam Krasop community, where he promoted the farming of green mussels, which are a shellfish that can be raised naturally in the ocean. They can be farmed on poles and will find their own sustenance. Tina also demonstrated how to prepare and cook the shellfish.

Vong Dara, deputy head of the Peam Krasop community, said 115 households in the coastal fishing community raise green mussels. They harvest from 2,500 to 3,000 tonnes per year on an area of about 68ha, earning 1,200 to 2,000 riel per kg.

“Before the Covid-19 pandemic, 80 per cent was exported to Thailand and 10 per cent to Vietnam. The remaining 10 per cent was sold on the domestic market. Post-Covid, 75 per cent goes to Thailand and 15 per cent is sold domestically – 10 per cent still goes to Vietnam,” he said.

While paying an inspection visit to the Chea Thou Steamed Fish Enterprise in Tomnup Roloak commune of Preah Sihanouk province on November 24, Tina said the ministry supports partnerships with the private sector, saying it allowed businesses to increase their revenue by adapting to food production safety standards that enable them to enter modern international markets.

Chea Thou Steamed Fish has received material and technical support from the CAPFish CAPTURE project, which is implemented by the FiA and UNIDO, through co-financing by the EU.

He also met with a group of fishermen in the community who were processing dried shrimp. He expressed his support for them, and encouraged all fishermen to contribute to caring for the environment by practicing sustainable management of natural resources.

“I encourage all members of the fishing community to practice sustainable care of the environment. Fisheries specialists will help guide you in the protection of shrimp and crabs habitats. One excellent policy is the release of any female crabs which are caught while carrying eggs,” he said.

On the same day, Tina visited a vegetable business of the ASPIRE programme in Samrung village and commune of Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nop district to learn about the challenges they faced, and the smart solutions they were employing to meet market demand.

He recommended that they prepare business plans so they would meet market demand and not produce an oversupply of any one product.

“Forming agricultural communities is a very important way of preparing planting and harvesting calendars and allows you to negotiate better market prices,” he said.

The minister also instructed the provincial department to conduct negotiations with the suppliers of shade mesh greenhouses and large vegetable wholesalers, in order to provide greenhouses to more farmers, as this would allow them to farm all year round. Importantly, a collective contract would reduce the debt that some farmers may take on through micro-finance institutions.