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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thailand bars Cambodian rice, cassava

Thailand bars Cambodian rice, cassava

090209_14

Protectionism aimed at other crops, too: officials, traders

Photo by: Tracey Shelton

A farmer dries corn in Pailin province. Thailand has blocked Cambodian

exports of corn, rice and cassava - among other crops - following

pressure from Thai farmers.

THAI authorities have closed the border to

agricultural products from Cambodia at all checkpoints between the two

countries due to Thai farmers protesting the competition posed by

cheaper Cambodian exports, officials and traders said.

In what

is being seen as a protectionist measure on Thailand's part, Cambodian

sources on the border told the Post that Koh Kong, Pursat, Battambang,

Pailin, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear provinces are

all affected. Cassava and rice were being blocked - the main products

barred - and may not reach export markets, traders said. At some

crossings, corn, beans and sesame have also been barred, they said.

"The

Thai authorities have told us they must close to imports of Cambodian

agricultural products because their people are protesting at

[government] offices against crops imported into their country because

it brings prices down," Sok Pheap, chief of the Cambodia-Thailand

Border Relations Office, said Sunday.

Cambodian dry cassava

was selling for 2.1 baht (six US cents) per kilogram Sunday compared to

2.6 baht (7.5 cents) per kilogram in Thailand. Similarly, corn was

slightly cheaper in Cambodia at 6.2 baht per kilogram - in Thailand it

was 6.8 baht per kilogram.

Early last week, some crossings had

been kept open, meaning Cambodian exports were still getting through,

but since that time the border has been completely closed to Cambodian

agricultural produce, said Sok Pheap.

They didn't tell us when they will again allow crops to be imported.

"In a meeting, they didn't tell us when they will again allow [Cambodian] crops to be imported into their country," he added.

Keo

Narin, a Cambodian army officer in Military Region 5 in O'Beichon

commune, O'Chrouv district, Banteay Meanchey province, said Sunday that

cassava, corn, rice and other crops are being stored in houses and rice

fields along the border.

"The [border] closure continues, so farmers

are trying to keep their goods from going bad in the hope the gates

will open again in the near future," he said.
Smuggling continues

Despite

the blockade, some Thai and Cambodian businessmen are continuing to

smuggle agricultural products across the border, he added, but trade is

well down.

Ung Oeun, governor of Banteay Meanchey province, said

Sunday that he has asked Thai officials in neighbouring Sa Keo province

to have a meeting at the end of this month to discuss the issue.

"We

will ask them [the Thais] to resume normal border trade," said Ung

Oeun, adding that there had been no orders from Phnom Penh to initiate

counter-protectionist measures.

Despite the blockade, there was

some good news for Cambodian traders. One exporter, Som Mab, said

Sunday: "I was told by the Thai authorities this weekend that they will

allow Cambodian rice to be imported into Thailand in two days' time."

In Pailin, dry cassava was already being allowed through, he added.

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