Most of Cambodia’s $6 million annual resin trade is conducted illegally, a new study has found, because the required export permits, licenses and fees are too expensive and burdensome for poor resin-tapping communities to buy and maintain.
Not only are the fees useless in generating government income, the report continues, but they help justify a system of informal taxes enforced by officials and others who stand between a resin-tapper and the market.
The report was conducted by Prom Tola and Bruce McKenney of the Cambodia Development Resource Institute.
Although there is a significant export trade in resin, few people buy an export license because it is impractical and rarely enforced.
“CDRI was unable to identify any actors in the resin trade who hold an export license,” the report reads, “and this was confirmed by a [Department of Forestry and Wildlife] representative who informed CDRI that no one has applied for a resin export permit since 2000.”
Eliminating transport permits, licenses and fees would put more profit into the hands of needy villagers and lessen the government’s burden to provide food to the villages in times of famine, the report concludes.
The survey found a widespread reliance on resin tapping in remote sections of Cambodia, especially in the north and northeast, with some 20,000 tons of resin collected annually by about 100,000 Cambodians.
A Wildlife Conservation Society study found that in four Mondolkiri province villages families earned an average of $340 tapping resin.
Resin—most often derived from Dipterocarpus trees of at least medium size—is used domestically to seal boats and make torches. It is also exported for use in varnish, the study found. Resin tapping has little, if any, detrimental affect on forests.
Villages that practice resin tapping have a vested interest in protecting their trees and often make excellent forest guardians, the study found.
Illegal logging has had a disastrous affect on resin tapping nationwide, as loggers often cherish the same trees that resin tappers use for their practice, the report found.