At the centre of Battambang town, there’s an intriguing depth to the local cuisine, extending beyond the simple pleasures of fish and the traditional toasted flattened rice snack, ambok. There, a local enterprise is transforming these everyday delights into finished products, with an eye on exporting approximately 15 tonnes to China before expanding to South Korea and Japan. 

Amid the lively scene at Heng Channy Angkor Meas Enterprise in Ratanak commune’s Romchek 2 village, workers don white smocks and blue face masks, resembling a medical team at first glance. They are the dedicated crew handling the packaging and processing of fish and rice flakes.

Its owner Veasna Vichearava, 29, shares that her family business, initially a modest venture in 2017, has gained momentum over time.

In 2019, following her participation in training courses provided by the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation – in collaboration with the Battambang provincial industry department and the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) – she received a processing machine.

Additionally, the Ministry of Environment, through the Cambodia Climate Change Alliance programme (CCCA), provided training on establishing a treatment plant to filter waste and wastewater without emitting odours into the atmosphere.

“We used to conduct our business based on tradition without considering the impact on the environment and human health. Through the CCCA training, I gained a better understanding of waste management and learned how to responsibly handle runoff that we used to discard thoughtlessly,” she says.

Ambok, fish and banana delights

Vicherava says her business crafts a range of tasty rice flakes, including plain ambok and ambok blended either with seaweed, mixed fruits or just banana. When it comes to fish, she exclusively opts for snakehead fish, transforming them into delectable natural smoked fish, spicy fish and sesame fish.

Her enterprise also processes banana flavoured coffee powder, and white-sesame and fish flavoured banana chips.

The business is gearing up to export 15 tonnes of processed fish and rice flakes to China soon. Additionally, there are plans to expand their product exports to South Korea.

In relation to the export, the Ministry of Commerce is preparing a certificate for her products to be sold internationally. Offering fish powder in various sizes, from 50g to 1kg, she runs the operation with a team of 18 workers.

“I’m thrilled and confident in the ministries, including the commerce ministry, for their support of intellectual property. Foreigners also show interest in our products, which instil confidence in customers, showcasing our taste and high standards,” she says.

Her participation in provincial trade exhibitions, coordinated by the ministries of commerce and industry – and through the One Village, One Product initiative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) – has been instrumental in promoting her products.

Khlok Vichet Ratha, deputy director of the environment ministry’s Department of Climate Change, tells The Post that in 2010, the ministry initiated the ongoing CCCA. The ministry’s project, jointly funded by the EU, Sweden and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), has co-financed 22 projects in Battambang province.

“Through these projects, we’ve supported medium and small enterprises, showcasing the government’s encouragement for these types of businesses to actively engage in addressing climate change and environmental concerns,” she says.