The value of logs and sawn wood exported from Cambodia to Vietnam last year increased by about $31.5 million compared to 2016, customs data has shown.
The Vietnamese data, obtained by Khmer Times yesterday, said about 163,071 cubic metres of Cambodian logs were imported to the country last year, worth about $39.5 million.
In 2016, this figure stood at 138,926 cubic metres, worth about $32.8 million.
For sawn wood, Vietnam imported 272,693 cubic metres valued at about $173.2 million from Cambodia last year.
In 2016, the figure was 171,306 cubic metres, valued at $148.3 million.
The data showed that timber imports reduced from July to October last year, but rose again in November and December, with the onset of dry season.
“The major border crossings are Hoa Lu, Le Thanh, as well as a couple of crossings in Tay Ninh and Dak Lak province,” the report said.
Data released by US-based NGO Forest Trends in August said 313,000 cubic metres of Cambodian timber valued at $142 million was registered by Vietnamese customs between January and June last year, including both logs and sawn wood.
The Ministry of Environment in August issued a statement denying loss of forest cover in Cambodia, saying the Forest Trends report was misleading the public about the state of natural resources in Cambodia.
Xuan Phuc, a regional trade and finance analyst for Forest Trends, said by email that countries must seriously consider the logging situation in their jurisdictions to inform their understanding about what’s really happening on the ground.
He also said the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments should sit down and discuss the issue, including national and local officials.
“It seems to me that power is fragmented between central and local governments, in both Cambodia and Vietnam,” Mr Phuc said. “The central government may not know what’s happening.
“The increase in imports points to weak law enforcement on the ground,” he added. “The government of Cambodia has banned log and sawn wood exports, but these are still flowing into Vietnam. If there was no permission, then no timber would be getting into Vietnam.”
A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture declined to comment, referring questions to a Forestry Administration spokesman, who also refused.
Environment Minister Say Samal in August 2016 announced the closure of all timber exports through Vietnamese border crossings to coincide with World Environment Day.
“Mass logging is finished,” he said at the time.
Prime Minister Hun Sen also set up the National Anti-Deforestation Committee in January that year to stop illegal logging in the northern provinces.