Cambodia and Vietnam have been finding ways to clear doubts of importing nations regarding the export of sugar and cashew nuts between the two countries after calculation discrepancies regarding export amounts were made public.
Ministry of Commerce undersecretary of state and spokesman Penn Sovicheat told The Post on April 27 that the two sides had met to renegotiate the easing of trade barriers related to three types of goods: bicycles, sugar and cashew nuts. They are also seeking ways to demonstrate to target markets that there has been no export of goods from any third country, through Cambodia, to Vietnam for re-export.
Regarding sugar, Sovicheat said importing countries had previously expressed concerns about the possibility that the commodity was being exported from Thailand through Cambodia to Vietnam. Refuting these claims, he said that Cambodia had been able to export sugar on its own in the past, including to the Vietnamese market – which is exported for direct consumption in the country – but was not able to do so in large quantities for resale in foreign markets.
“We welcome any scrutiny from foreign partners, especially the EU, which imports the two countries’ sugar products, because at present our volume of sugar exports is not large and [we are] incapable of exporting sugar from Thailand to Vietnam,” he said.
“We spoke to Vietnam to affirm that Cambodia does not export Thai sugar to Vietnam at the moment. We only import sugar from Vietnam and Thailand for domestic use.”
As for cashew nuts, Sovicheat said that Cambodia has a large area of land for cultivating and produced large quantities for export. Because the commodity is exported in large quantities to Vietnam, the two sides were said to have discussed ways to ensure the sustainability of mutual supply and the possibility of boosting bilateral trade volume for cashew nuts to “over $10 billion” by end-2022.
He added that both countries are hashing out a strategy to restore bilateral economic activities which have been affected by Covid-19. They are also seeking ways to boost land-based exports to China after the Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement entered into force in January.
However, Cashew Nut Association of Cambodia (CAC) president Uon Silot noted that there had been “some discrepancies” in data for 2021 cashew nut exports between the association and that of both the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Vietnamese customs.
He said that the CAC recorded the export figure as 980,000 tonnes, while the agriculture ministry’s was 930,000 tonnes and the Vietnamese customs 1.1 million tonnes. He said the former two figures were viewed with suspicion by Vietnam, which alleges underhanded exports on the part of Cambodia.
“I have heard that the Vietnamese side is sceptical of where Cambodia got its cashew nuts exported to Vietnam. The import of cashew nut products to Vietnam is duty-free, but if cashew nuts from other countries pass through Cambodia to Vietnam, they are taxed normally. So Vietnam wants to find out more about the issue,” he said.
According to a CAC study released this year, Vietnam has put in a “small order” of cashew nuts from Cambodia, but the exact reason for the low number remains unclear.
Silot speculated that the decline in cashew orders from Vietnam was due to Cambodia’s output decreasing by “between 10 and 30 per cent” due to adverse weather conditions, leading to cashew nut exports to Vietnam at the beginning of this year being less than the same period last year.
According to data from the General Department of Customs and Excise, Cambodia-Vietnam trade volume stood at $1.722 billion in the first quarter of 2022, an increase of 13.6 per cent year-on-year.