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Local officials given power to issue ag origin certificates

A rice farmer sorts rice grains for sale after harvest season in Battambang province.
A rice farmer sorts rice grains for sale after harvest season in Battambang province. Heng Chivoan

Local officials given power to issue ag origin certificates

In a bid to decentralise the certificates of origin (COs) process to help promote international exports and ease cross-border trade, the Ministry of Commerce launched a pilot project yesterday that allows officials in the provinces of Battambang and Pailin to directly issue certification.

Ministry of Commerce spokesman Long Kemvichet said this was the first time that the government has allowed provincial commerce departments to unilaterally issue the CO stamp, with the purpose to reduce the time and costs associated with getting approval. Before, producers and exporters had to apply for CO either in Phnom Penh or through an online platform that has been dogged by delays due to the high number of applicants.

“Battambang and Pailin provinces are a huge source for the country’s agricultural production with border access to Thailand,” Kemvichet said. “We want to provide producers with ability to access CO facilities in a shorter timeframe to reduce costs.”

He added that if the pilot project went well, the Ministry of Commerce would rollout CO facilities countrywide.

Kim Hout, director of Battambang province’s Commerce Department, said that government officials are already prepared to start processing COs for traders and added that this was a positive initiative to decentralise the scheme to speed up issuance for time-sensitive products.

“We are ready to process COs and producers and traders can now access applications free of charge and this will save them time on the costs of transportation of picking up the certificate in Phnom Penh,” he said. “Now we can work directly with traders to speed up the process and they can fulfill their order demands faster to get products across the border.”

Accessing CO certification is a key issue for traders that are legally exporting to international markets.

Ouk Nearyroth, a cassava trader in Battambang, said however that she had given up on applying for CO certificates years ago, claiming that the process was too long and complicated for getting products to buyers in Thailand.

“Now, I only just sell when a broker from Thailand comes directly to my storage facility and gives me cash payments,” she said. Nevertheless, she said that the government initiative should benefit trade in the agricultural sector and encourage growth.

“Even though I do not intend to apply for a CO on shipments as I have my network of buyers, I still believe changing the system for government approval will benefit brokers and buyers,” she said.

Song Saran, CEO of Amru Rice Cambodia, welcomed the initiative as the CO process was generally “stressful and a waste of time”, he said, adding that it would help cut costs if it is indeed free of charge. He said that previously he had to pay $50 directly to the government per CO on every shipment of rice.

“It is a good policy if the government has exempted the fees for CO certification,” he said. “It will reduce the cost of production and help attract more investors.”

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