From January to March 2023, Cambodia imported more than $408 million worth of petrol and diesel. Gasoline imports totalled more than $197 million, up 21 per cent on the same period in 2022. Diesel imports were worth more than $211 million, a reduction of 30 per cent, according to data from the Ministry of Commerce.

Coal imports increased by over 45 per cent, totalling more than $153 million. Over $54 million in fuel gases used for burning was imported, an almost identical figure to the previous year.

Nearly $17 million of jet fuel was brought into the Kingdom, a 77 per cent jump, while heavy oil was down almost 90 per cent, at $2.6 million. Lubricant imports reached almost $5 million, a 10 per cent rise.

Since mid-April, there has been a continuous decline in prices at the pump. A May 1 notice showed that gasoline dropped from 4,400 riel to 4,200 riel per litre, and diesel fell from 4,050 riel to 3,950 riel.

Commerce ministry undersecretary of state Pen Sovicheat noted that Cambodia cannot determine fuel prices. They are decided by international oil prices, as the Kingdom is entirely dependent on imported fuel. Pricing depends on the fuel markets in the nations that export to Cambodia, predominantly Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

However, he said that during such volatile international oil prices, to alleviate the livelihoods of the people, the Cambodian government has decided to subsidize the retail price of fuel at 6.5 cents per litre, which is the best that the state can do according to its possibilities.

Royal Academy of Cambodia economics researcher Ky Sereyvath said recently that Cambodia’s oil imports could rise further as international oil prices could continue to rise due to an imbalance between supply and demand.

“Demand for fuel exceeds supply by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries [OPEC], the monopoly on fuel supply, limiting supply, coupled with a reduction in oil substitutes,” he said.

The Ministry of Mines and Energy is in discussions with the Ministry of Economy and Finance to examine the possibility of establishing a national company to take control of the exploration of potential offshore oil deposits, so the Kingdom would not be entirely reliant on imports.

A Canadian company, EnerCam Resources Co. Ltd. is also investigating the possibility of investing in the project, following the government’s termination of an agreement with Kris Energy, which was declared bankrupt.