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Officials consider export numbers fishy

The Ministry of Commerce has released figures showing Cambodia’s export of fishery goods – including fresh and dried fish products – have decreased drastically in the first quarter of the year, though several government officials viewed the figures with scepticism.

Cambodia exported 49.9 tonnes of fish products in the first quarter of the year – a sizeable drop from the 620.14 tonnes exported over the same period in 2012, the ministry’s data showed.

Nao Thouk, director-general of the Fisheries Administration at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said he had not seen the Ministry of Commerce data yet, but told the Post he was hesitant to believe the figures.

He was unaware, he said, that the Ministry of Commerce recorded data on fishery products, and added that by his own count, Cambodia had exported roughly 350 tonnes in recent months.

With domestic fish consumption on the rise, Thouk noted, exports may have declined to meet national demand. Cambodia has plans to boost fishery production to 1,200,000 tonnes by 2019, he added, with 500,000 tonnes exported annually.

Kong Putheara, director of the Statistics and Information Department at Ministry of Commerce, said he was unsure whether there were errors in the Ministry of Commerce’s data collection. If there were a drop, he said, he was doubtful it would be as dramatic as the figures showed.

He said he could not comment on the ministry’s data collection methods and referred further questions to Camcontrol officials.

But Khuon Savuth, statistics director at the Ministry of Commerce’s Camcontrol General Department, which collected the data, defended the figures, attributing the drop in export numbers to recent shifts in the domestic fish market.

“I collect the data from the provinces so I think it is correct. There has been [an increase] of fish demand on the domestic market,” he said.

Om Savath, executive director of Cambodia’s Fish Action Coalition Team, said that in general fishery production had declined this year, as the government had reduced the number of fishing lots throughout the country.

“Export figures must change because fishery outputs decline, and fishers fish [in order to] supply the domestic markets,” he said.

Danh Sovong, owner of Bright Star Cambodia Fishery and Trading Co Ltd, said he has been exporting marbled goby fish to Singaporean and Chinese markets for nearly three decades and until recently had never experienced significant setbacks.

Demand from importers in China, Singapore and Malaysia had dropped off in recent months, Sovong  said, adding that buyers had also more than halved their prices for some types of Cambodian fish.

“We have never encountered such a problem for the past 20 to 30 years,” he said, adding that he could only speak for freshwater fish. “I see, in general, no one can export fish nowadays.”

“This [goes] not only for my company, but other companies . . . I stopped exporting as the market is not good. How can we live? We will wait until
the market re-emerges,” he said.

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