US-funded project Commercialization of Aquaculture for Sustainable Trade (Cast) was officially launched on Thursday, with the intention to boost aquaculture growth and development in Cambodia by increasing access to fish seed and feed.
The project will be implemented by the American Soybean Association over a five year period until 2023, and is backed by $17.1 million funding from the US Department of Agriculture.
In addition to increasing access to fish seed and feed, the project will also strengthen links in the value chain – from hatcheries to fish producers and buyers and distributors.
Michael E Newbill, charge d’affaires at the Embassy of the United States of America in Cambodia, said during Thursday’s launch that the project is unique in that it will use an abundant resource – soy – as feedstock for the Kingdom’s growing aquaculture industry.
“Aquaculture is one of Cambodia’s most important sectors, with production growing by 17 per cent in 2017 alone, to reach over 200,000 tonnes,” he said.
Newbill added that Cast’s goal of increasing aquaculture production is in line with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries policies and will improve Cambodian livelihoods.
“Most importantly, [Cast] will reduce pressure on wild capture, which currently accounts for 76 per cent of total fishery production.”
The project will cover major markets in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and six provinces along main rivers – such as Kandal, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Battambang and Pursat.
Cast Cambodia chief Jim Hershey said the project is designed to provide benefit to commercial freshwater fish producers, feed mills, hatcheries, extension workers and small- and medium-sized enterprises in the commercial aquaculture value chain.
“We are looking for farmers who want to be entrepreneurs, businessmen and businesswomen who understand that they have to start with good seed, they have to feed [the fish] good feed, and they have to take care of their ponds."
“[Qualified farmers] have to be ready to sell good quality fish. We will meet these people and select them as we do a baseline assessment,” Hershey said.
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon said developing aquaculture is good for Cambodians’ livelihoods as a supplement to rice farming and it helps reduce the import of fisheries products from neighbouring countries.
“From now on, we need to focus on aquaculture. We cannot catch natural fish above the cap amount of 600,000 tonnes. So, Cast is an important contribution to the protection of our natural fisheries for the future,” he said.