Cambodia exported $2.22 billion worth of gemstones and jewellery in the first eight months of this year, a jaw-dropping 716.8 per cent leap compared to the same period last year, the Ministry of Economy and Finance reported.

Ieng Chheng, the owner of Channy Jewelry in Kandal market in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district, told The Post that the price of gold has seen fluctuations much in line with those in the global market.

On Wednesday, the selling price of gold at her shop stood at $2,272 per damloeng (a local unit of weight equivalent to 37.5g), up $20 from the day before, she said.

Meanwhile, platinum at 7.5-teuk (a local measurement of the ratio of a precious metal to other metals or alloys; this is equivalent to 18 carats or 75 per cent purity) was going for $1,760 per damloeng, she said.

A damloeng is further divided into 10 chy, 100 hun or into tiny 1000 ly bits, while a neal is 16 damloeng, or 600g. Understanding these local units of weight is vital for anyone considering doing business with gold traders in the Kingdom.

Chheng described a familiar scenario – people excited about a downtick in gold prices scrambling to buy the precious metal in anticipation of a price hike.

“A lot of people come to my shop to buy gold – they ask what [my selling] price is for gold, eager to buy in bulk. Most end up buying between five and 10 damloeng,” she said.

A goldsmith and dealer based in Prek Eng market in the capital’s southeastern Chbar Ampov district, who asked to remain anonymous, said most of the gold for sale at his shop came from Vietnam and Thailand.

“When European producers decide to release gold, its price jumps. People will then raise their prices on the market considering how we bring in gold from Europe,” he said.

Cambodia also imported more than $194 million worth of gems and jewellery last year to supply the domestic market, the Ministry of Commerce reported.

It said Thailand, Singapore, Canada, Belgium and Hong Kong are Cambodia’s largest import markets among 16 other destinations, including the US, India, China, Vietnam, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Italy.

Chhea Chhayheng, a financial adviser for derivatives brokerage firm Golden FX Link Capital Co Ltd, previously told The Post that the Covid-19 global health crisis has ravaged the regional and global economies, melting away people’s confidence in the US dollar and coaxing them to buy gold in hopes that the price will extend its upswing.

“The reason for rises in gold price is that when people lose confidence in the value of the dollar, they withdraw their money to invest in gold,” he said.

Yos Monirath, the director-general of the Ministry of Mines and Energy’s General Department of Mineral Resources, said there are currently two large gold mining companies operating in the Kingdom’s northeast.

Australian-listed mining firm Emerald Resources NL is currently developing the Okvau gold project in Mondulkiri province and expects to begin extracting gold next year.

According to Monirath, Emerald Resources is also building a refinery estimated to be able to process one million ounces of gold per year.

He said: “We hope the company will be able to refine gold for the first time in the fourth quarter of 2021 [as planned], if there are no obstacles. We will then be able to export gold to international markets.”

Cambodia exported over $418.29 million worth of gemstones and jewellery to the international market last year, the commerce ministry reported.

Singapore was Cambodia’s largest export market, worth $226 million. Thailand ranked second and imported around $165 million worth of jewellery while the US ranked third and imported more than $23 million, said the report.

Other export destinations included Vietnam ($3.36 million), Belgium ($ 1.15 million), Japan ($110,000), Italy ($1,851) and China ($1,142).

The report measured exports of natural or cultured pearls, precious or semi-precious stones, metals, precious metals, imitation jewellery and coins.