Cambodia will release 35 containers loaded with frozen meats and other frozen goods shipped from India that were stuck in Sihanoukville Autonomous Port customs control, after analysis results revealed no traces of the novel coronavirus.
The containers had reportedly been shipped to the Kingdom prior to an indefinite ban imposed on May 1 on the import of frozen meats and other frozen goods qualified as “high-risk” originating from India. The move was an apparent preventive measure to contain the spread of Covid-19 amid a devastating second coronavirus wave in the regional economic power.
The results were presented on May 12 at the second meeting of the ad-hoc commission in charge of preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 – the pathogen that causes Covid-19 – from imported goods, which is headed by General Department of Customs and Excise director-general Kun Nhem.
Ministry of Commerce director-general for Consumer Protection, Competition and Fraud Prevention Phan Oun said the commission will work out the best way to clear the goods from customs import procedures as soon as possible.
Oun is also a deputy chairman of the commission.
Commerce minister Pan Sorasak issued a letter on May 1 concerning the ban, addressed to Nhem and the heads of Customs branches and offices, citing concerns over the B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus first identified in India last year.
The Kingdom will destroy frozen goods originating from India that are found to be infected with the virus and pursue other legal action, and the commerce ministry will diplomatically bring the issue to the Indian side, the letter said.
The ban will likely stymie the growth of buffalo meat imports from India in 2021, which began the year on strong footing, clocking in at $9.32 million in just the first two months.
This is over 52 per cent of the $17.7 million logged in for the whole year 2020, which was up by more than 170 per cent from $6.4 million in 2019. The buffalo meat imports accounted for 12.28 per cent of bilateral trade between Cambodia and India, according to the Indian embassy in Phnom Penh.
At a forum on meat supply in Cambodia held earlier this month, Indian ambassador to Cambodia Devyani Khobragade spoke at length about, inter alia, the gap between local production and domestic consumption, and export opportunities for Indian companies.
"Indian companies will be able to supply high-quality meat and meat products to Cambodia at lower prices and increase their market share and further contribute to strengthening trade and trade relations between the two countries," she said.
In a May 13 video conference, commerce minister Sorasak and Khobragade acknowledged the inroads made by both sides on preliminary working-level talks toward finalising the terms of reference for the Trade Negotiation Committee of a free trade agreement (FTA), and formally launching negotiations.
They also agreed to boost trade, which they described as an important pillar in strengthening bilateral ties.