Proving popular at home with its use of Japanese techniques and an insistence on quality, a Kandal-based fish farm is aiming to take its products to international markets, with Japan first on the menu.
Delicious tilapia fish fillets produced by Cambodia Fresh Farm using Japanese-style filleting techniques are tickling both local and foreign palates – with plans ahead to get orders flowing in from buyers internationally.
The five-year-old fish farm was started by Rainbow Progress Enterprises Co Ltd in Ponhea Leu district in Kandal province to specialise in commercial-scale tilapia fish fillet production with the support of Japanese funding and technical assistance from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
“Seeing the growing demand for fish fillet at home and overseas, Rainbow Progress Enterprise decided to venture into producing fish products.
“We are planning to export our fillets and are waiting for an export licence from the government.
“Our main markets are to be Japan and Europe,” said Rainbow Progress CEO Chav Soursdey.
Cambodia Fresh Farm’s delicate flaky fish fillets are proving popular in Cambodia – where fish remains a staple of the diet, with per capita consumption of 30kg per year.
“We ensure that we have enough fish to meet the needs of our customers every day. Before the pandemic, we could easily sell about 500-600kg of fillets per month.
“This was due to good demand from local and foreign customers, restaurants and supermarkets. Our sales were increasing significantly every year,” Soursdey said.
After learning about fish breeding from experts at the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, the 40-year-old entrepreneur from Kandal travelled to Japan – one of the world’s top fishing nations – to study the production of fish fillets.
Cambodia’s vital fishing sector produced 413,200 tonnes of freshwater fish last year, with aquaculture production at 400,400 tonnes, according to the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries.
And JICA estimates that around 30 per cent of the Kingdom’s population rely on the fisheries sector for their living – second only to rice.
The popular white-fleshed and mild-flavoured tilapia is a herbivorous species easily bred in the Kingdom throughout the year in freshwater ponds.
“We decided to venture into tilapia fillets because it tastes like a popular Japanese fish and so can be exported to Japan, as well as other countries.
“We chose Kandal province because as well as its close proximity to Phnom Penh, it has good sources of water as it located near rivers,” said Rainbow Progress general manager Mitsuhiro Kubota.
Around 40 workers use machinery and fillet slicing tools imported from Japan to produce quality fillets from the hardy and fast-growing tilapia.
At the Rainbow Progress factory, workers make fish balls from oversized fish that are not suitable to make fillets with, while the leftovers after filleting are pounded and sold as fish food to other fish farms.
Cambodia Fresh Farm’s 20 ponds, each measuring 40mx40m, contain around 10,000 juvenile fish, and nearly three tonnes of tilapia can be harvested from each, Soursdey explained.
“Our juvenile tilapia can be raised to maturity within six months, with each then weighing between 500-600g.
“We do not let them get any bigger because if they get too big then the fish fillets lose flavour,” Soursdey said.
And Soursdey is confident that this insistence on quality will ensure that Cambodia Fresh Farm’s products will prove popular internationally.
“Cambodia Fresh Farm only breeds tilapia because this freshwater species is popular in Japan and in Europe.
“Our goal is to produce fillets from tilapia for Japan first, and then other international markets such as Europe, the US and Australia” he said.