The rats squeak as Muy Chameroun nears their cages to feed them foods like corn, rice, potatoes, grass and anything else that is healthy for them..
But these rats number more than 100 and they are not his pets. Muy Chameroun is a farmer, and he is raising the rats as food.
Rats are not only consumed in Cambodia, but also in other countries in the region, including Thailand, China, and India.
From his small farm in Kdol Tahen commune, Bavel district, in the western province of Battambang, Muy Chamroeun breeds and raises a type of rat that he imported from Thailand.
He used to work in the construction industry in neighboring Thailand, but found that he could make more money raising the rodents that he has fond memories of eating in his childhood.
In the four years he has been raising rats, Muy Chamroeun has been able to lift his family’s standard of living. The business has allowed him to save 2 to 2.4 million riel (US$486-583) per month.
Growing an Industry
Other farmers in the area are foregoing swine and cattle to try to get in on the rat racket, and Muy Chamroen sells them adults from his mischief to help them get started. He has also set up a Facebook page called Sovanrachna Rat Farm to share tips on raising, feeding and upkeep.
Sum Pina, one of his customers, says the rats do not cost a lot to raise. The largest expense is building a shed to house them in, and their food is negligible, he says. Additionally, these Thai rats are better than the local domesticated and wild breeds because they do not emit such a foul odor, he said.
Once the rats have matured and fattened up to around 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) or more, they can be taken to market and sold for 20,000 to 25,000 riel (about $5-6) per head.
Theng Savoeun, President of the Association of Cambodian Farmers' Communities, said that raising rats for meat can help reduce Cambodia’s meat imports of meat and improve the livelihood of farmers.
There are no domestic regulations on breeding or raising rats or selling their meat, so it is an easy business to get into. Muy Chameroun wants to sell his rat meat overseas, and to do that he would need a license from the Ministry of Agriculture, but currently there are no regulations or procedures for doing that – yet.
Translated by Samean Yun. Edited by Eugene Whong.
This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by By RFA Khmer.