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Fuel vendors asked to reconsider price hikes

Fuel vendors asked to reconsider price hikes

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Minister of Finance Keat Chhon calls on major fuel retailers to think first before continuing recent increases at the pump.

Photo by: Tracey Shelton

Pump prices have risen steadily in recent months, up another 100 riels a litre this week.

FINANCE Minister Keat Chhon summoned most of the major fuel companies to his ministry Monday, warning them against hiking fuel prices further.

His move comes as the price of crude oil continues to rise, as has the price of fuel on the forecourt, which is up around 100 riels (US$0.024) per litre since last week. The market price for a barrel of benchmark Brent Crude oil is currently US$69, up from around US$48 three months ago.

"The main purpose of the meeting was to ask companies to consider carefully their position before setting their retail prices on the forecourt," a Finance Ministry official said speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Post understands that Sokimex Petroleum, Total Cambodge, PTT, Phavimex and Mekong Petroleum were called in. Caltex Cambodia and Malaysia's Petronas did not attend.

Heu Heng, deputy director of marketing for Sokimex, said Keat Chhon had asked them to consider their pricing and did not want firms to take advantage of rising international prices by hiking the cost to consumers.

"The ministry did not ask companies to cut our [filling station] prices, but a ministry official did request that companies think about our retail prices to avoid hurting consumers," said Heu Heng, adding that most companies agreed the current retail price was "reasonable".

Bin May Mailia, a local petroleum analyst who also attended the meeting, said the ministry had asked firms to consider carefully before increasing prices. Most companies attending had agreed and said they would consider whether they could lower prices.

Bin May Mailia said the trend in oil prices was upwards in recent months and predicted that if that continued then the price of fuel locally would rise, too. He said most companies import from Singapore.

Seng Chong Ly, the network manager for Total Cambodge, confirmed that pricing was discussed, but did not provide further information. His firm currently charges 3,950 riels (US$0.96) per litre.

Rong Chhun, the president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said people were facing a double challenge: lower incomes and higher fuel prices. CITA regularly calls on the government to force fuel firms to charge less.

"Fuel now costs almost one dollar per litre, while the average Cambodian earns just two dollars a day," he said.

Rong Chhun called on Prime Minister Hun Sen to compel fuel companies to follow his recent call to hold prices.

"I think that the prime minister's order has not really succeeded," he said. "I would like to see that the order the PM has made is respected," said Rong Chhon.

Phnom Penh tuk-tuk driver Kun Lean Sy, 36, said the drop in tourists combined with increasing numbers of tuk-tuk drivers meant times were tougher.

"We are almost fighting with each other trying to get customers because they represent our profit," he said.

Prices released Monday showed fuel costing from 3,850 to 3,950 riels per litre for the five major retailers, up from 3,750 to 3,850 riels per litre a week ago.

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