Cambodia exported about 40,000 tons of fish this past season, a decrease of about 10,000 tons from last year, officials said.
But a recent report from an independent research institute estimates that half of exports are smuggled out of the country illegally because of a state-owned company that monopolizes the legal export trade.
About one-tenth of the 390,000 tons of fish caught this season was exported, said Nao Thuok, director of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ fisheries department. About 5 billion riel (about $1.28 million) was raised for state coffers, he said.
Some three-quarters of the exported fish was sent overland to Thailand, and another 10,000 tons went to Vietnam, said Touch Seang Tana, an undersecretary of state to the Council of Ministers. About 100 tons of dry fish went to the US.
Thailand and Vietnam process Cambodian fish for export to more lucrative markets in Bangkok, Hong Kong and elsewhere, the Cambodia Development Resource Institute found in a report released last month. Cambodia could make more money if it could export directly to these markets, the report states.
It states that the Kampuchea Fish Import and Export Company, or Kamfimex, “appears to play the strongest role in constraining fish trade and export.”
Fishermen must sell to Kamfimex to export legally, allowing Kamfimex to “set its own buying price,” the report states. This encourages smuggling, it states.
Citing a Ministry of Commerce report, the report claims that Kamfimex restricts trade in other ways, such as controlling fish processing and establishing a system of “distributors” who collect fees without performing any services.
Cambodia levies a 10 percent tax on fish exports and is the only country to demand such a fee, the report states.