Despite the fact that beverage consumption in Cambodia is on the rise, government statistics show that imports of alcohol and non-alcoholic products in the first half of 2013 have declined by 51 per cent year-on-year.
The seemingly conflicting figures left some scratching their heads. Meng Saktheara, director general of the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, said yesterday that the numbers weren’t realistic amid an environment of increased demand and limited domestic beverage production, which increased only slightly in the past year.
“The 51 per cent rate of decline is too much, and I do not think local production can be able to reduce the amount of import in such a big rate,” Theara said. “Even if we have seen increases in some brewery factories to serve local consumption, I think our production capacity is still [limited] to balance demand.”
According to data from the Ministry of Commerce, Cambodia imported about 720,000 litres of alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks in the first half of this year, down from nearly 1.5 million litres in the same period of 2012.
Kong Putheara, director of the statistics department at the Ministry of Commerce, relayed comments about the puzzling statistics to an official at Camcontrol, an institute that records import and export information. But when contacted by phone yesterday, the representative said he was not authorised to speak to the media.
In recent months, critics have pointed out that the problem of reliable data is becoming more urgent, as the creation of the ASEAN economic community in 2015 will use government data to create lasting policies.
This isn’t the first time that official data has been questioned by officials in recent months. In May, Ministry of Commerce data showed that Cambodia exported nearly 50 tonnes of fish products in the first quarter of the year – a sizeable drop from the 620 tonnes over the same period in 2012.
Nao Thouk, director-general of the Fisheries Administration at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said at the time that he was hesitant to believe the figures.
With fish consumption rising, Thouk noted, exports may have declined to meet demand, but the dip doesn’t go well with Cambodia’s plans to boost fishery production to 500,000 tonnes annually by 2019.