OPENING DOORS AND HOW NETWORKING CAN MEAN THE START OF BIG THINGS
STORY OF THE KOH KONG SEA WATER FISH SAUCE CLUSTER, KOH KONG, CAMBODIA
Koh Kong Province in Cambodia may not be the first place to come to mind when the word fish sauce is mentioned, but members of the sea water fish sauce cluster in the province are determined to change this.
Local demand for fish sauce in Cambodia has seen a steady increase in recent years, all thanks to improved quality standards and fairer prices. There is much to be gained, and members of the sea water fish sauce cluster in Koh Kong Province want to capitalize on this increasing demand by expanding their market to other provinces in the country.
Yet, there are barriers to overcome. For one, they face staunch competition from the more popular brand of Kampot fish sauce and the Thailand - produced ones. For Koh Kong Fish Sauce Manufacturing, one of the major producers and retailers of fish sauce in the province, there is a constraint in transportation as local logistic companies are only willing to deliver products to major cities where they have their own delivery routes. This effectively limits the possible reach of the products in other provinces particularly remote ones.
The opportunity to turn their circumstance around arose with the cluster’s involvement in MI’s Project on Enhancing Competitiveness of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the Southern Economic Corridor (SEC) of ASEAN Mekong Subregion (AMS), a project supported by the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF).
Through MI’s regional training on SME Cluster Development and Export Consortia Formation on September 12-17, 2016, the leader of the sea water fish sauce cluster from Koh Kong Province came to know the cluster leader (dried shrimp) and the Department of Commerce of Preah Sihanouk Province. Following the training program, the cluster sought the assistance of the dried shrimp cluster and the Department of Commerce in registering for the Sea Festival, a local trade exhibition in Preah Sihanouk Province in December that same year.
The small exposure in this three - day trade expo, made possible by connections established during a one - week training program at MI, has meant the start of big changes for the sea water fish sauce group in Koh Kong Province.
Besides the profit from the sale of the products, what has been the most beneficial for the group was the exposure it brought to the brand name of their cluster. During the trade expo, they received several inquiries from interested customers in Preah Sihanouk Province, evidently paving the way for opportunities for expansion.
The trade expo was only the start. The cluster is looking forward to joining more training programs offered by MI that will increase their knowledge of cross - border trading, business management and export practices – learning opportunities that are useful in achieving the cluster’s long - term vision of becoming one of the region’s top sea water fish sauce exporters. Cooperation with MI and organizations that can help them penetrate the regional and global markets is also highly anticipated.
Expectations on the SEC Biz Database, the central business networking platform developed and managed by MI for SMEs in the SEC, are also high. The group is hopeful that the database can open more connections with potential buyers both within the region and outside as well as provide information on companies trading sea water fish sauce and related products.
Big things indeed can spring from small beginnings, such as one simple training program that can bring together target groups and agencies with resources to share and capacities that can be harmonized. Such kind of fruitful cooperation is something that can also be achieved for the other economic sectors that MI continues to help.