Cambodia has lifted a ban on the import of frozen meats and other frozen items classified as “high-risk” originating from India, amid recent improvements in the South Asian country’s epidemiological situation and as all samples of frozen meat imports have tested negative for the novel coronavirus.
An explosion in cases linked to new variants of SARS-CoV-2 reported by India in April-May – averaging between 300,000 and 400,000 a day – prompted the Kingdom to impose the ban on May 1 in an attempt to stave off the spread of the virus and its more troublesome mutations.
While the ban may have been scrapped, a couple of temporary safeguards have been introduced as part of Covid-19 response efforts, which may affect imports from every source, according to a June 19 letter from the General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia (GDCE).
One key measure outlined by the GDCE is the requirement of additional certificates or confirmation letters issued by the competent authorities of the places of origin that declare imports of frozen meats and other “high-risk” frozen items to be free of SARS-CoV-2.
Before completing customs clearance for entry into the Kingdom, authorities will take samples of these items to be tested for the virus by the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge, the GDCE said.
“Depending on updates and developments, enforcement of the two requirements may be relaxed or stopped entirely, based on improvements in the situation surrounding the Covid-19 outbreak in the exporting country, and if the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge’s test results of frozen meat consistently turn out negative,” the letter said without elaborating.
The devastating second coronavirus wave that plunged India into arguably the world’s worst health crisis since the start of the pandemic, however, is gradually showing signs of abating.
On June 19, India logged 58,588 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the total to 29,881,352, with 386,740 deaths, according to the Worldometers website.
The decision to end the ban comes in response to a plea made by Indian ambassador to Cambodia Devyani Khobragade during a meeting with Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth on June 3.
Khobragade stressed that the ban had dented Cambodian business confidence in India, at an especially sensitive time when the two countries are trying to negotiate a free trade agreement (FTA).
The Kingdom is working closely with Jakarta-based Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) on a feasibility study of the merits of a bilateral FTA with India, Ministry of Commerce spokesman Pen Sovicheat told The Post on February 25.
The ambassador’s request came amid concerns that the ban would stall the expected growth of buffalo meat imports from India in 2021, which began the year on strong footing, reaching $9.32 million in just the first two months.
This is more than 52 per cent of the $17.7 million recorded for the whole year 2020, which was over 170 per cent higher than the $6.4 million logged in 2019. Buffalo meat imports accounted for 12.28 per cent of bilateral trade between Cambodia and India, according to embassy statistics.