Prices Vary as Prahok Season Starts

Buyers have gathered to purchase fish for a fermented fish paste known locally as prahok as its season began.

Buyers scoop bargains when costs fall

PHNOM PENH--Buyers have gathered to purchase fish for a fermented fish paste known locally as prahok as its season began. Spot prices have varied greatly, with some saying they are half last year’s levels but others saying they have gone up.

Ou Chan Thoeun traveled from Takeo province, to spend the night in Phnom Penh for prahok fish. She said she was able to buy more than she planned due to the abundance of fish and not many people buyers.

“Last year, a kilo of fish cost between 4,000 [$1] and 5,000 riel [$1.25] while this year I spent 2,200 riel [$0.55] per kilo,” Chan Thoeun said. "I planned to buy one tonne but seeing the abundance of fish with few people coming to buy, I decided to buy two tonnes.”

Ra Mit, a Prahok manufacturer in Takeo province, said he was able to buy the fish at an unexpected low price. Buying prahok fish this year was easier than last year without having to compete with other people, he said.

"This year I organized money for only one tonne of fish, but as the price was falling, I decided to buy two tonnes,” he said.

He said a kilo cost 5000 riel, which was cheaper than last year, when it cost 7000 riels ($1.75). However, the price varied according to the species and the size of the fish.

Keo Pheap said that this year there were plenty of huge fish for pha-ak fish paste, another form of prahok made of big and fine fish. However, she said the price was high despite the plentiful catch.

"This year, I bought big fish for 20,000 riels [$5] per kilo but last year one kilo cost only 15,000 [$3.75] to 18,000 riel [$4.50],” she said. “But it is easier to buy despite its increased price.”

Ing Try, deputy director-general of Fisheries Administration, said the number of fish caught this year was almost the same as last year, but if the weather changed the fish stocks would decline.

"If we talk about the lunar cycle of the Khmer lunar calendar the number of fish in this period of the waxing moon is about the same or more than the previous year," he said. “Thus, if the weather is changing, the fish will disappear.”

Every year, many people from different provinces come to buy fish for prahok for sale or consumption during the year. The "rich fish" season can be found only two or three times a year, Try said.

Soul Lavi, a buyer of prahok fish from Kandal province, said that this year's fish was more expensive than last year. He said that last year a kilo cost 1,000 ($0.25) to 1,500 riels ($0.40) but this year was up to 2,100 riel ($0.50) for small fish and 9,000 riel ($2.25) for big fish.

"This year, some people said fish are not abundant, but in the next new moon, the fisherperson will probably be able to catch more fish,” he said. “In this new moon, there was not much fish and the price is even higher.”

The Fisheries Administration announced last week that the prahok fishing season would run from Dec. 12 to 16 after observing the water level flowing from the Tonle Sap Lake.

Prahok has long been an important traditional ingredient in kitchen, and the season in which fishes are caught for producing prahok begins in December and ends in February.

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