Cambodian log exports doubled in 2016

In Kratie province on the way to the Cambodia-Vietnam border, a man transports a trailer full of timber. Photo credit: Pha Lina

In spite of the high-profile founding of an anti-logging task force and timber ban to Vietnam, Cambodia still managed to export unprocessed logs worth a staggering US$33 million to said neighbour, which was, as reported by Vietnamese customs data, double the volume of what was exported in 2015.

In 2016, Cambodia exported 139,306m³ of logs to Vietnam, a steep increased from the 59,292m³ seen in 2015, and 460m³in 2014, according to Forest Trends, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) from the United States (US).

The exports rose sharply in November and December of 2016, and 56 per cent of the total volume of logs – valued at US$32.86 million – was sent to Vietnam in the last two months of the year, with 43 per cent exported in December alone.

The high numbers call the Cambodian government’s claims of establishing a ban on timber exports to Vietnam in January 2016 and forming a task force headed by military police chief Sao Sokha – who has been connected to illegal logging previously – to squelch timber smuggling.

Commerce in the more profitable sawn wood has continued through the past year, though the quantities have reduced since 2015, along with unprocessed logs, of which exportation has allegedly been banned for the past twenty years.

Vietnam imported about 171,000m³ of sawn wood from Cambodia in 2016, valued at approximately US$150 million. However, those numbers are nowhere near the 375,000m³ witnessed in 2015.

According to Forest Trends, the volume nevertheless remained significant. Marcus Hardtke, a long-time anti-logging activist stated that while the government’s “crackdown” had managed to put “a dent” in the trade between Cambodia and Vietnam, the numbers indicate that business is “back to normal, or worse,” elaborating that the sharp spike in exports at the end of the year complements the informal reports recording a surge in logging following the end of the rainy season. “There’s been an increase in logging activity this dry season, which is amazing because the government is stating the opposite,” Hardtke said. “Where did this wood come from? There are no large-scale timber plantations in Cambodia, [so] we have to assume it is from natural forests.”

Source: The Phnom Penh Post