The UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the Fisheries Administration jointly launched the Value Chain Investment Support (VCIS) programme virtually on August 3 aiming to support Cambodian enterprises in post-harvest fisheries.

VCIS provides financial and non-financial support to Cambodian entrepreneurs – especially women and youths – as incentives to align business operations to food safety best practices and market trends, to enhance the competitiveness of products, and to improve access to national and international markets.

Jointly implemented by the Forestry Administration – a unit of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries – and UNIDO, the VCIS scheme is under the EU-backed Capfish-Capture sub-programme, one of two components of the Cambodia Programme for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth in the Fisheries Sector (Capfish).

Covering a five-year period from July 2019-June 2023, the Capfish-Capture sub-programme is being carried out with an €87 million ($103 million) contribution from the EU and an €11 million counterpart fund from the Cambodian government and development partners, according to the ministry.

UNIDO country representative Sok Narin announced the launch at a seminar on August 3, saying the VCIS programme was expected to directly and indirectly benefit about 500 micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSME), including producers and cooperatives in the fisheries value chain.

“The value chain of fisheries products in Cambodia is complex and multi-functional. Most of the actors involved are informal [and unregistered] businesses, and most of them are small processors … the majority are run and owned by women,” he said.

He added that VCIS would provide equipment and technical support – including business planning and management consulting, financial literacy education, and marketing solutions – to MSMEs and enable them to restructure their businesses to better comply with recognised food safety standards, match market demand, and gain sustained competitiveness.

“This support will help businesses grow sustainably and can contribute to job creation, improving people’s daily lives and even lead to a decent profit,” Narin said.

On June 30, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon noted that Cambodia and the EU had reviewed Capfish’s early-stage results, identifying its strengths and weaknesses and outlining new action plans and measures to continue to drive the fisheries sector forward, in line with the programme’s objectives and other government targets.

Overall, both sub-programmes achieved “proud results”, even as the Kingdom grapples with an intensifying Covid-19 surge, according to the minister.

“We appreciate the cooperation and support of the EU and relevant state institutions that have contributed to the promotion of aquaculture production and growth in the sector,” Sakhon said.

According to Narin, the VCIS programme would offer support of up to $25,000 for smaller-sized enterprises, and as much as $100,000 for medium- and large sized ones. He said 20-40 eligible businesses would be selected in the first round of applications.

A new UNIDO study found that 89 per cent of fisheries processing businesses are unregistered and more than 60 per cent are run or owned by women. Women-owned businesses represent 42 per cent and 17 per cent of micro-sized and small-sized enterprises, respectively.