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Gov't firm on aquaculture smuggling stance

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Women sell fish at a market in an area designated as a yellow zone in Roka Korng II commune of Kandal province’s Mok Kampoul district on Tuesday. Heng Chivoan

Gov't firm on aquaculture smuggling stance

The government has reaffirmed its stringent stance over the smuggling of aquaculture products into the Kingdom as a means to sustain local production.

The confirmation came after a handful of calls were made by the Cambodian Aquaculturist Association (CAA) over recent weeks concerning illegal imports.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Economy and Finance has confirmed that restrictions on the smuggling of aquaculture products have been tightened by the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE) after hearing the pleas of the aquaculture sector in late March.

His remark was in response to a May 2 letter from the CAA calling on the three directly-involved ministries – the ministries of Economy and Finance; Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; and Commerce – to increase restrictions on fish imports and put specific measures in place to address market issues and risks of the aquaculture sector in Cambodia.

The letter said: "According to practical observations in April, the aquaculturists who have already sold all the fish in their ponds are very hesitant to continue raising more, because they had to do so at prices below production costs, and they anticipate that the aquaculture market in Cambodia seemingly no longer has a clear future.”

Finance ministry spokesman Meas Soksensan told The Post on May 4 that the domestic aquaculture sector has been troubled since the public outcry over large-scale fish imports.

He said the GDCE promptly issued Instruction No 584/21, dated March 26, to further strengthen and optimise the management and prevention of smuggling of aquaculture goods.

Tariffs and customs duties apply to all fisheries imports, which require permits from the agriculture ministry in accordance with Sub-Decree No 17, dated February 26, 2020, legislation that introduced a list of prohibited and limited goods, he added.

"The customs unit is a law enforcement unit. All permits to import from the customs authority are in line with decisions made and permissions granted by the agriculture ministry in accordance with the regulations in force," Soksensan said.

Commerce ministry spokesman Seang Thay declined to comment, referring inquiries to the finance ministry, or the “lead one”, as he described.

CAA president Sok Raden told The Post on April 27 that the illegal importation of large quantities of aquaculture products from neighbouring countries on a daily basis is a constant source of difficulties for local farmers.

"Illegal imports with unclear quality control not only undermine plans towards exporting Cambodian aquaculture products to international markets, but even the breeding operations that serve domestic needs could face bankruptcy," he said.

According to the CAA, the 315 fish farms run by its members are on track to boost production by this month to 10,356 tonnes – 7,259 of “pra” (Pangasius djambal), 1,858 of “chdo” (giant snakehead or Channamicropeltes), 893 of “po” (Pangasius larnaudii), 155 of “andeng” (catfish of the Clarias genus) and 191 of other fish species.

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