Kampot provincial officials are seeking a solution with Vietnamese authorities to enable smooth cross-border rice commerce and resolve lingering concerns over traffic congestion and customs procedures.
At the border checkpoint in Kampong Trach district’s Prek Kroes commune on the eastern terminus of National Road 1315, hundreds of Vietnam-bound vehicles are subject to lengthy delays each day. Many of these vehicles carry goods for cross-border trade.
Kampot provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries director Chan Rith told The Post on December 1 that on any given day, as much as 1,200 tonnes of rice remains loaded on trucks that are unable to cross the border.
He said provincial authorities are currently coordinating with the Vietnamese side to get the rice trucks to enter Vietnam as soon as possible.
As government initiatives centred on shoring up rice exports encourage more profit-seeking farmers to scale up production, Rith explained that traders are scrambling to ship the commodity to Vietnam in larger quantities.
According to him, despite the Covid-19 pandemic this year, Cambodian farmers have produced a bumper crop of rice with the intention of selling it in Vietnam. Unfortunately, the pandemic has also prompted Vietnamese authorities to ban many imports, resulting in the current congestion and delays in crossing the border.
“Upon entering Vietnam, we are required to change drivers. There are not enough Vietnamese drivers, which leaves hundreds of vehicles stranded each day.
“Additionally, the Vietnamese side limits the hours of operation at the checkpoint so the gate is open only from 6am to 6pm. If trucks are overloaded, their inspections and processing take more time, further delaying other vehicles in the queue,” Rith said.
He added that in the near future, Kampot provincial authorities would set up a new commission to coordinate and discuss with the Vietnamese side. They will seek to establish mutual procedures in accordance with prior agreements between the two national governments, with the goal of facilitating more efficient processing and greater volumes of cross-border trade.
A representative of traders who transport rice for sale in Vietnam (who asked to remain anonymous) said a bureaucratic bottleneck is the primary reason for the regular traffic jams.
At the border checkpoint, he said, a procedure requires rice traders to transfer their goods via a company created for the purpose of handling taxation.
The Cambodian government does not impose this restriction on incoming goods, in accordance with bilateral compacts, and its imposition by the Vietnamese side does not comply with these agreements, he asserted.
The representative added that traders have protested these conditions, but the protests have been ineffective at resolving the issues.
He called for fully reopening the Prek Chak international border checkpoint in Kampong Trach’s southwestern Russey Srok Khang Lech commune to increase processing of goods moving across the border.
“Each day at this checkpoint, there are hundreds of trucks transporting rice. Each truck carries up to five tonnes of rice coming from Phnom Penh and provinces across the country.
“Due to traffic congestion and other restrictions, a significant portion of the cargo is undeliverable in a timely manner. The goods are damaged in transport, reducing their sale value,” he said.
Kampot provincial governor Cheav Tay led a meeting on November 30 regarding exporting rice to neighbouring countries and the situation at border checkpoints.
As a result, the provincial administration will create a team to address issues related cross-border rice commerce and devise a mechanism to mediate problems that currently hinder trade.