Price of Popular Fish Paste Soars as Total Catch of Fish Drops

The price of prahok has skyrocketed in the past year as a result of a sharp decrease in the fish catch, officials and vendors said.

According to Fisheries Admin­istration Director Nao Thuok, the total catch of the fish used to make the popular fermented fish paste dropped by one-third this fish-

ing season. Cambodians caught 12,500 tons of the fish this season, down from 18,000 tons during the same period last year, he said Sunday.

That decrease has had a direct effect on prahok production.

“We don’t have enough fish to make prahok, so the price is up,” Phsar O’Russei vendor Meas Sar-

in, 50, said while selling prahok Monday.

The price of trey riel, the small fish most commonly used to make prahok, rose 200 percent over the past year, she said, from 500 riel per kg to 1,500 riel.

As a result, O’Russei vendors are charging 7,000 to 9,000 riel per kg of prahok, up from 2,500 to 3,500 riel one year ago. A vendor at Phsar Kandal, who declined to give her name, gave similar figures: 8,000 riel this year, compared with 3,500 to 4,000 last year.

Customers are complaining, Meas Sarin said, but they’re still buying.

“Prahok is really important for us because it makes Cambodian dishes taste good,” villager Sun Pech, 62, said Saturday from her home in Koh Kong’s Kompong Seila district.

Her family of six usually eats 80 to 100 kg of prahok a year, she said, but they’ve reduced consumption in the face of rising prices.

“I don’t have enough money to buy it,” she said, adding: “It’s not only prahok that have increased in prices.”

This season’s poor fish take is due to an increase in fishing during the dry season and a decrease in normal flooding during the wet season, according to government fisheries expert Touch Seang Tana.

“The flood was reduced and it came late. The fish had no space for spawning,” he said, adding that upstream dams may have been responsible for irregular flooding.

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