First ‘pra’ fish shipment to China delayed until mid-September

A trial export of 40 tonnes of iridescent shark catfish to China scheduled for this month has been delayed again, until mid-September, as the only authorized exporter struggles to process the batch, according to a senior official of the Fisheries Administration (FiA) of the Ministry of Agriculture. .

This inaugural expedition would mark Cambodia’s first formal aquaculture export. The fish, also known by its scientific name Pangasianodon hypophthalmus and sometimes referred to simply as “iridescent shark” despite not being a shark, is one of the most cultivated varieties of shark catfish in the Kingdom.

It is known in Khmer as “pra thom” and is part of the shark-catfish category “pra” which can describe many – but not all – species of the Pangasius (P) gender (“po” types such as P larnaudii and Psanitwongsei being notable counterexamples) or other genres in the Pangasiidae family like helicophage and PangasianodonBut no Pseudolais.

Khov Kuong, deputy director of the FiA’s Department of Post-Harvest Technologies and Quality Control (DFPTQ), told The Post on August 29 that Hun Ty Co Ltd, the only company to have been granted the right to process the shark catfish for export to China, produced just six tonnes in “just over a month”.

Although the company receives advice from Chinese experts and its facilities are equipped with semi-automated systems, the new, inexperienced staff slow processing to about an average of “one ton” on operating days, as opposed to five tonnes initially planned. , he said.

“Our local workers are not yet skilled or experienced in the job, and it will take another month or two for them to become familiar with all the tasks,” Kuong said, adding that the FiA and Hun Ty would be ready. to export the shark catfish once the 40 tonnes have been processed.

Saying there are no other foreseeable obstacles to the first export, Kuong said the FiA is pushing the company to speed up the work.

He shared that the shark catfish comes from Yon Sovannarith Pra Fish Farm – one of three farms licensed to breed and supply the fish for export to China.

Um Chan Chamnan, the administrative manager of Yon Sovannarith Pra fish farm, located in Prek Pnov district, north of Phnom Penh, confirmed that Hun Ty only bought six tons of shark catfish from his farm. .

He said the company resumed fish purchases on August 25 after a break to “recruit professional staff”, and was now working to increase daily purchases to one tonne.

According to Chan Chamnan, Hun Ty needs shark catfish weighing between 0.9 and 1.1 kg, all of which must be kept alive to maintain freshness and meat quality.

The inaugural export of iridescent shark catfish is expected to provide a substantial boost to the aquaculture sector, as the government strives to maintain annual production growth at around 20%, through the strategic planning framework for fishing 2015-2024.

For reference, aquaculture production increased by 30.25% from 307,408 tonnes in 2019 to 400,400 tonnes in 2020, but fell by 13.0% to 348,350 tonnes last year, according to the FiA.

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