samraong tong district, Kompong Speu province – Senior government officials took a tour Saturday of a new fish farm here that is expected to produce Cambodia’s first catfish fillets for export. Officials expressed great hopes for the $5-million Ocean King farm.
Nao Thuok, director of the Agriculture Ministry’s fisheries department, said that his ministry has been encouraging investors to set up fish farms to provide export fish rather than simply selling existing river fish stocks.
“I think this is long-term planning for future fish stocks,” he said. “For the future, I envision Kompong Speu being turned into a fish farming center for international export,” said Chea Vuthy, spokesman for the Council for the Development of Cambodia.
The CDC recently approved the farm’s business license, he said, adding that this company will be the first to debone fish meat before sending it to the US.
Ocean King, which has been exporting whole saltwater fish since 1997, is in the process of digging 10 ponds on 13 hectares in Kaheng commune.
Ocean King General Manager Ty Theany said the farm will be able to produce 12 million fry per day and should eventually export 8,000 tons of fish fillets to the US at $3.6 per kg. At that rate, the company would be generating $28 million in sales from the farm.
“I have learned that the US market has a large demand for fish from Asia,” Ty Theany said.
Ocean King’s factory in Sihanoukville will process the fish. Ty Theany expects to ship twice a year, starting in 6 months.
“I have no plans to sell to the domestic market,” he said. “Our people do not really like fish fillet, they like fresh meat.”
Cambodia currently exports 40,000 tons of freshwater fish per year, generating over $35 million, and 60,000 tons of saltwater fish generating over $30 million, Nao Thuok said. The primary markets are the US, Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.
Chea Vuthy said the company will offer fish fry to neighboring villagers to raise at home.
Some local villagers said they are afraid the new farm will pollute the local lake they rely on for drinking water and fresh fish.
“We have been drinking the water in the lake for many years, and sometimes we are able to fish,” said villager Neang Mom, a mother of nine children. “When the company dumps [dirty] water from the ponds into the lake, that will totally affect us.”