Cambodia’s petrol bill topped $440 million at the end of the first quarter, up 11 per cent from $397 million during the same period last year, according to data from the Ministry of Commerce.
The data show Cambodia imported a total of 453,000 tonnes of petroleum during the first quarter this year, 10 per cent more than the amount imported during the three months of 2013.
Srey Chanthy, an independent economist, said that the country’s economic expansion was behind the increase in fuel demand.
“The economy may not be the strongest, but it continues performing very well. That’s why we need to import more to supply domestic production and to support the demand of transportation,” Chanthy said.
“With improvements within the agricultural sector, but a shortage in the labour force, we need to import more machinery and equipment, which all need to consume petrol despite the fact that our country doesn’t produce its own petroleum,” Chanthy added.
Cambodia spends over $1 billion on more than one million tonnes of oil imports per year. The majority of imports come from Vietnam, Singapore and Thailand.
Meanwhile, plans of US-based energy giant Chevron to extract oil from the Gulf of Thailand to one day aid in domestic production continue to be stalled due to negotiations with the Cambodian government over taxation issues.
Cambodia Petrochemical Company (CPC) plans to build an 80-hectare oil refinery worth an estimated $2.3 billion in Preah Sihanouk and Kampot provinces.
Construction of the refinery, however, has been delayed and it is not expected to be operational until 2016.