Will Baxter/Phnom Penh Post
Fish for sale at a market in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has lifted a ban on fish exports, countering a move made by the Tonle Sap Authority earlier this month, according to a statement from the Council of Ministers.
The Tonle Sap Authority had imposed the ban in order to boost the supplies available to the domestic market, in addition to combatting illegal fisherman who relied on the exports. The move drew criticism from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and local fish exporters.
MAFF and the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology last week submitted a request for the premier to intervene. The Council of Ministers on Friday issued a statement that Hun Sen had said exporting would continue as normal.
Ministry officials yesterday praised the move, saying the ban would have had a negative impact on the local economy.
“Fishermen who fish legally could have been hit by the ban too,” MAFF secretary of state Por Try said, adding that tax revenues collected from the industry also would have suffered.
He pointed to an article in the Kingdom’s fisheries law that specifically states exports to foreign markets were legal, and therefore the Tonle Sap Authority had no standing to impose the ban.
Por Try said he understood illegal fishing was a problem, given that demand in foreign markets tended to drive up prices for Cambodian exports. However, he said the push by illegal fishers to capture the added profit “cannot be avoided”.
While fish exports are allowed, he said the scale of the industry is still relatively small. Only eight companies are licensed to export fish in the Kingdom, Por Try said. Fish exports in 2011 totalled about 30,000 tonnes, earning about US$60 million in revenues, according to MAFF. That was a decrease of 14 per cent year-on-year from 2010, which saw 35,000 tonnes fetch $40 million.
Hok Chea Import-Export Co Ltd president Hok Chea, who is based in Kampong Cham and typically exports to Thailand, said he sold six to eight tonnes of fish in country last week at lower prices and reduced quality because of the ban. Hun Sen’s decision should put the industry back on track, he said.
“The government’s permission to export fish is good for us, and we would like to thank them for allowing us to get back to business. Although I had losses,” he said.
Officials at the Ministry of Water Resource and Meteorology and Tonle Sap Authority yesterday could not be reached for comment.