Retail petrol prices in Cambodia saw a 200 riel ($0.05) jump on October 16, as international crude benchmarks boil over $80 per barrel.

An attendant at a Total petrol station in Phnom Penh, who asked not to be named, told The Post on October 17 that the prices for a litre of diesel, regular and super petrol were 4,000 riel, 4,300 riel and 4,850 riel, respectively, leading to a flurry of complaints from customers, prompting some to limit their purchases.

The retail selling price of petrol in the Kingdom from October 1-16 had been set at 4,100 riel per litre of regular EA92 – with an octane rating of at least 92 – and 3,800 riel per litre of diesel, according to an announcement from the Ministry of Commerce.

The corresponding rates for September 16-30 had been 4,000 riel and 3,650 riel per litre of regular EA92 and diesel, respectively.

Compulsory for licensed petrol service stations but not for street vendors, the pricing serves as a tool to facilitate and enhance cost control nationwide and is calculated semi-monthly by the ministry using data extrapolated from fluctuations in crude oil prices on the international market.

The ministry has yet to publish the latest price table for October 17-31, with spokesman Pen Sovicheat declining to comment to The Post at the weekend.

A taxi driver in the capital, Loeung Vong Visoth, indicated that the price hike, compounded with a pandemic that refuses to abate, will adversely affect his livelihood and those of other motorists who require fuel to move around and transport goods and materials.

“People cannot earn income, and the price of petrol always goes up by 200 riel, but when it comes down, it drops by 50 riel, it’s not fair,” he told The Post on October 17.

He asked the government to consider lowering the petrol rates, lest they upend “the lives of all people”, especially taxi drivers, as the Covid-driven economic slowdown saps earnings.

Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, stressed that hikes in petrol prices are not just the whim of the Kingdom or private sector, but a result of fluctuations in global oil prices.

With well-placed reductions on taxes and duties, and better overall control on tax administration, petrol prices could be shifted lower, he said, noting that this latest rate jump is slightly steeper than a fortnight ago.

“Global oil market rates are soaring, the state is not yet fully capable of reducing import duties and taxes. And oil prices are rising today because, firstly, the major economies are ready to reopen … where demand for oil for industrial use is increasing.

“Secondly, Opec also [suffered] a crisis in production in 2020 and 2021. It does not sell,” the economist said referring to the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Vanak voiced sympathy for the distressed consumers and suppliers of petrol, stressing that their grievances are justified, even from those who do not understand international oil market fluctuations.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures crossed the $80-per-barrel mark on October 8 for the first time since November 2014. WTI and Brent crude settled at $82.28 and $84.86, respectively, on October 15.