Koh Kong blue mussels are now available at Makro Supermarket in western Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district, after a deal was struck with local communities in an effort to boost incomes and support the conservation of mangroves, according to a senior Ministry of Environment official.
Mangrove forests provide support in coastal saline or brackish waters for filter-feeders such as blue mussels (Mytilus edulis), which are often found clumped together on tree roots.
At a promotional event at the wholesale warehouse on September 22, ministry secretary of state Neth Pheaktra lauded the move as the next step in the expansion of the domestic market for the edible bivalve molluscs, and as part of broader efforts of the ministry’s General Department of Local Communities to improve the livelihoods and family economies in communities within the Kingdom’s protected areas.
“The blue mussels are local, abundant in the Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary, Koh Kong province and a symbol of sustainable natural resources that stems from the harmony of economic activity and conservation,” he said.
And now the yields of mangrove conservation “have begun establishing a presence at Makro, with [the molluscs] added as a new option for consumers who love seafood”, he said.
He thanked Makro and Sna Dai Me – an agricultural cooperative based in Chroy Changvar district’s Prek Leap commune of northeastern Phnom Penh – for working with the ministry to stock blue mussels.
“This is a display of marketing initiatives for local products, and also part of marine conservation, in particular the protection of mangrove forests in Koh Kong province, which is an important source of food security for people in the area,” Pheaktra said.
Makro, in collaboration with the ministry’s Cambodian Sustainable Landscape and Ecotourism Project (CSLEP), have organised a promotional discount for the mussels until October 5 at its Phnom Penh and Siem Reap outlets.
The communities that raise the medium-sized marine molluscs in Peam Krasop can supply 3,210 tonnes of mussels per season, usually from November-March but potentially until slightly later if demand so dictates.
Sna Dai Me executive director Phal Chakrya expects Makro’s move to broaden the range of opportunities for Koh Kong blue mussels, highlighting the historically diminutive scale of their market.
“I hope that Cambodians on the whole will support us in propping up local products and also helping build livelihoods in the communities that produce this type of mussel. From now on, Cambodians will be able buy the mussels at any supermarket in any province or town because they’ll be widely sold,” she said with a dose of optimism.
Ministry director-general for Local Communities Khieu Borin affirmed that there are three mussel-raising communities in Peam Krasop, stressing that the value chain has great potential for future development.
He said the CSLEP supports the creation and promotion of domestic markets for high-quality local products that could compete with imported merchandise in the supermarket and upscale-hotel arenas, especially in the capital.
“To achieve these goals, the CSLEP project will work with development partners and the private sector to create a conducive environment for investments in conservation-friendly economic activities,” he said, stressing that developing policy on mussel exports is also a priority.
“The project is collaborating with Sna Dai Me and Makro Cambodia to arrange for the processing of quality and hygienic products to supply the Cambodian market, as well as to achieve a wider reach among Cambodians,” Borin said.