Farmers hope for rubber fix

October 22nd, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

Cambodia’s small rubber farmers are hoping a commitment to stabilise prices among rubber producing countries will help curb sliding profits in the sector.

Industry representatives from Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia and other rubber producing countries met in Malaysia last week to discuss what can be done to stem the fall of rubber prices.

According to an October 15 report from Reuters, the rubber producing nations agreed to urge their members not to sell rubber below $1.50 a kilogram.​ …

Hor Kimsay and Daniel de Carteret

Cassava farmers plead for gov’t help

August 6th, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

Cassava farmers are calling on the government to standardise prices and help stabilise demand as the market for the root crop continues to prove risky for growers.

Cassava exports totalled 226,000 tonnes in the first six months of the year, down 21 per cent from a year ago, yet earnings for the cassava-export market rose 20 per cent in the same period, reaching $18 million. …

Chan Muyhong

Illegal fishing battle heats up

July 21st, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

When authorities in Kampong Chhnang province on Friday encountered and pursued the boat of alleged illegal fisherman Chieb Ou, they couldn’t have expected to find themselves being chased instead.

But that’s precisely what happened when, rather than surrendering, the 42-year-old suspect turned his boat towards the pursuing officers and attempted to ram their vessel, deputy provincial fisheries chief Seng Bun Chhern said.

The authorities were forced to flee to safety, eventually returning with 12 men in five boats to take Ou into custody for allegedly fishing with banned electric equipment. …

Sen David

Fine dining ups bird count

July 21st, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

Over the past six months, 19 “vulture restaurants” have led to a slight rise in the number of the birds spotted in Cambodia, according to a recent Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries report.

Contrary to the name’s sound, the vultures aren’t the dish being served but the diners being fed: Conservations lay out cow carcasses stripped of the hide and take cover nearby to document and photograph the birds. The 204 carnivores counted during feasts over the past six months is just slightly higher than the count estimated in last year’s annual report. …

Phak Seangly

Companies regrow ‘forests’

July 10th, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

More than 100,000 hectares of forest have been replanted across the country since 2008, according to a government report – but about 90 per cent of that amount can be chalked up to private plantations.

Produced by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the report, obtained yesterday, claims that rather than forest cover decreasing – as monitoring groups and media outlets regularly report – it has increased, largely due to private companies’ industrial planting schemes.

Since 2008, 104,377 hectares were reforested, with a vast majority of about 93,000 hectares attributed to private companies planting trees such as acacia and palms, which spur “economic growth”, according to Thorn Saret, director of the administration department at the Agriculture Ministry. …

May Titthara

As fish stocks vanish, locals flout law to survive

July 9th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

Khan Thea, a subsistence fisherman who lives and works along this sprawling, 7,000-hectare lake fed by the Mekong River, was not having a good day on the water.

Struggling to net even a single fish, he finally resorted to a dangerous—and illegal—technique: fishing with electric current. …

Prime Minister Hun Sen abolished Cambodia’s system of commercial fishing lots in 2012, a major policy change intended to conserve fish stocks and give local subsistence fishermen a better shot at making a living.

But more than two years after the cancellation of the lots, which covered some 270,000 hectares of fish-rich areas, local villagers and fisheries experts say that little has improved for the fishermen who ply their nets here.

Meas Nee, former chairman of the Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT), an NGO that advocates against illegal fishing, said the abolition of private lots was a necessary step, but the handover of the lots to community fisheries groups was not well planned. Now, there are even more illegal fishermen depleting fish stocks than there were before, according to Mr. Nee. …

Phorn Bopha and Alex Consiglio

Cambodia’s fisheries production rises 6.7 pct in 2013

July 1st, 2014 , The Cambodia Herald

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Ouk Rabun said Tuesday that Cambodia’s fisheries production rose 6.7 percent from a year earlier to 728,000 tonnes last year.

Speaking at a National Fish Day ceremony at Kdol Reservoir in Peam commune in Samaki Meanchey district in Kampong Chhnang province, Ouk Rabun said 528,000 tonnes came from freshwater fisheries and 110,000 tonnes from marine fisheries. …

The Cambodia Herald News Staff

Gov’t called on to save forests

May 21st, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

Villagers from forest communities in nine provinces called on the government yesterday to take action after alleging that “the rich and powerful” are causing the “serious destruction” of their livelihoods.

The villagers, with the support of two NGOs – the Children’s Development Association and Community Peace-Building Networking (CPN) – raised concerns over the destruction of their forests, which they said were being cleared by a combination of powerful local businesses, soldiers and the authorities.

Sorn Siyan, a community representative from Kratie province, said that seven community forests out of 11 registered since 2011, covering more than 21,000 hectares, have been completely cleared. …

Phak Seangly

Illegal wood exports to China tripled in 2013

May 13th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

Cambodia’s exports of protected rosewood and other high-value timber to China more than tripled last year, according to U.N. figures cited in a new report that blames lax law enforcement across the Mekong region and skyrocketing demand in China for pushing some species to the brink of extinction.

The trade can be deadly. At least 33 Cambodians were shot dead by Thai security forces while searching for the lucrative lumber across the border last year alone, according to rights group Adhoc. The illicit cross-border trade cost 45 Cambodians their lives the year before.

In a report released Monday, “Routes of Extinction: The corruption and violence destroying Siamese rosewood in the Mekong,” the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) blames the illicit trade mostly on China’s love for Hongmu, its word for a type of high-end furniture and the species of wood used to make it. …

Of the 3.5 million cubic meters of Hongmu timber China imported between 2000 and 2013, nearly half came from Cambodia and the rest of the Mekong region, according to the EIA’s analysis of U.N. trade data.

According to the data, Cambodia’s exports of rosewood and other Hongmu species more than tripled between 2012 and 2013 from 6,800 cubic meters to 20,700 cubic meters, the highest figure on record for the country since 2000. …

Cambodia’s 2002 Forestry Law strictly prohibits the logging of rare tree species, including rosewood. In 2013, Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a directive outlawing not just the logging of rosewood, but its transport and sale as well. He also urged countries still importing the wood to act to stem demand.

That same year, Cambodia joined 176 other countries party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to give Siamese rosewood Appendix II protection. That means all international trade of the species must now be accompanied by a specific export license. …

The CITES website lists Cambodia’s “management authority” for the convention as Ty Sokhun, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Mr. Sokhun declined to speak. His assistant referred questions on rosewood exports to Forestry Administration chief Chheng Kim Sun, who also declined to speak. …

EIA cites a $3.4 million deal Cambodian timber tycoon Try Pheap inked with the government for 5,000 cubic meters of illegally logged wood seized by authorities last year. In the country’s northeast, it is an open secret among loggers and rights groups that Mr. Pheap’s loaded trucks make constant trips into nearby Vietnam. …

Zsombor Peter

Logging a resource issue, says official

May 13th, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

A forestry official with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) who is usually tight-lipped acknowledged last week that his agency has struggled to combat illegal logging, blaming a shortage of manpower and entrenched opportunistic logging by villagers – explanations that were laughed off in some quarters yesterday.

In an interview last Tuesday at the Forests Asia Summit, organised by the Center for International Forestry Research in Jakarta, MAFF Secretary of State Ty Sokhun also played down accusations that authorities are slow to respond to – and are even the targets of – complaints of illegal logging,

The real difficulty in fighting logging, he continued, was that the forests simply covered too much ground for his roughly 1,000 “forest experts” to patrol. …

Sokhun maintained that measures to help villagers make money from forests would encourage them to turn from logging to conservation, but Ouch Leng, director of the Cambodian Human Rights Task Force, said that it was actually the villagers who were leading the fight against illegal loggers in spite of government inaction. …

Opposition lawmaker-elect Son Chhay was quick to agree, blaming mass logging on large-scale operations, and calling Sokhun’s assertion that officials were quick to respond to reports of illegal logging “completely rubbish”. …

May Titthara and Stuart White

Paddy rice farms curb losses from lost land

April 7th, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

Cambodian paddy rice production fell only slightly during the first half of this year’s dry season, despite 12,000 hectares of usually productive land deemed unusable due to last year’s floods.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, dry season paddy rice production between December and April fell 1.9 per cent compared with the same period last year. …

Chan Muyhong