Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon is pushing for more investment in the domestic farming of Australian red-claw crayfish, to raise supply to the local market and potentially export down the line.

The ministry is keen to work with interested parties to make this vision a reality, he added, advocating for the greater adoption of the newly-introduced species in Cambodia.

The minister was speaking during a visit on August 21 to the Tuol Tonle Chum farm in Kampong Thom province’s southernmost Baray district, which breeds and raises the crayfish – recognised by the distinctive red patch on the chelae, or claws, of males and also known by its scientific name Cherax quadricarinatus.

He encouraged the farm to ramp up production of hatchlings and adult crayfish to meet the needs of the local market and provide farmers with young stock to raise.

This, according to him, would dovetail with the government’s aquaculture development policy, which he said is aimed at ensuring food security, increasing revenues, boosting production and supply to the domestic market, especially in the context of the global Covid-19 epidemic.

“Given the current achievements of the farm, I would like to suggest that it strive to expand its breeding potential, by teaming up with the Fisheries Administration to create and broaden partnerships with growers to step up the amount of local crayfish produced and ensure ample supply for the market.

“The ministry and Fisheries Administration will be looking forward to coordinate and make the red-claw crayfish investment process a success,” Sakhon said.

Setting up in 2018 on 18ha, Tuol Tonle Chum now comprises 62 breeding ponds and 60 non-breeding habitats of various sizes with more than 60,000 adult female crayfish that are capable of producing five-to-10 thousand hatchlings per month.

Owner Tann Noravin told The Post on August 23 that the crayfish is virtually non-existent in the consciousness of Cambodians, but could soon witness strong market demand, especially once the threat of Covid-19 subsides.

He said adult crayfish now go for $12-25 per kg, depending on size.

“Although the prices are acceptable for farmers, the supply of this type of red-claw crayfish in the Cambodian market is still very tight, and at times even non-existent,” Noravin said.

Taking up the minister’s suggestion, he said Tuol Tonle Chum will dedicate itself to broadening the scale of its breeding and raising operations, and join forces with the government to augment the domestic production capacity and create jobs for the people.

The farm is gunning to sell 300kg of crayfish a month from September, and even more starting early next year, Noravin said.

Hatchling production is set to expand to one-to-two million per month, from the current 500,000, he said, adding that it usually takes about four months to sell each batch.

He emphasised that the $500,000 invested in Tuol Tonle Chum is not enough to bring his vision to fruition, saying that he had applied for a loan at the state-owned Agricultural and Rural Development Bank of Cambodia (ARDB) to make up the balance.

The minister told The Post in May last year that the crayfish are easy to feed and have a high potential for investment and export.

“There will be a large number of markets. China exports billions of dollars’ worth of crayfish to the US and Europe each year,” he said. “This is the main reason why I want to inspire Cambodians to raise this kind of crayfish because it is easy to feed and in great demand.”