Cambodia has issued 36 certificates for the import and export of a total of $24 million worth of precious and industrial-grade rough gemstones in 2021, down by 45 per cent from $43.7 million in 2020, covered by 45 permits, according to Ministry of Commerce data.

This year’s 15 import and 21 export permits accounted for $15 million and $9 million, respectively, compared to 2020’s 23 import and 22 export certificates which represented $23.9 million and $19.82 million.

Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Belgium, Japan, Italy and mainland China were the biggest buyers of Cambodia’s rough gemstones, while Thailand, Singapore, Canada, Belgium and Hong Kong were the top import markets, according to the ministry.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng told The Post on December 28 that Covid had induced a general slump in the import and export of gemstones this year, with the lack of jewellery exhibitions, weddings and other ceremonies dampening demand for the mineral crystals.

“This decline is normal because in the context of the Covid-19 epidemic, everyone is mainly focused on health and food issues, and events that typically feature gemstones have been rare,” he said.

However, Heng expects the flow of gemstones in and out of the Kingdom to pick back up as travel resumes around the world and economies rebound from Covid-19.

“Imports and exports will recover from 2022 onwards. In addition to imports for domestic use in Cambodia, there are also many facilities to process jewellery and gemstones for export, to sell on the international market,” he said.

Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, shared Heng’s view that gemstone imports and exports would see a steady increase following the return of weddings and other ceremonies, which Vanak stressed would buoy demand for processed minerals.

“Because gemstones are used as decorative ornaments, imports and exports will trend up when the economy is doing well and there are lots of ceremonies,” he said.