The Ministry of Commerce says January-February garment exports tumbled nearly $100 million from last year on softer demand from key importer US
A garment factory in Phnom Penh. Government officials say exports have fallen sharply.
GARMENT, textile and footwear exports fell a combined 20 percent in the first two months of the year compared with 2008, Commerce Ministry figures released exclusively to the Post Wednesday show.
Exports during January and February were worth US$401.06 million, down 19.77 percent year-on-year from $499.88 million for the same period in 2008. Individually, garment exports were down 21.78 percent to $360.86 million, textile exports fell 47.5 percent to $3.92 million, while "other" exports increased 0.39 percent to $16.49 million.
Shoe exports bucked the trend, up 35.17 percent to $19.78 million on 3.92 million pairs of shoes exported.
The figures are for exports under the generalised system of preferences (GSP) and most favoured nation (MFN) schemes Cambodia has access to as a least developed nation, accounting for almost all of Cambodia's garment, textile and footwear exports.
The official figures bring to an end a series of contradictory announcements on the value of garment exports in recent months.
In March, Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh told the Post that garment exports fell to $70 million in January this year from $250 million in January 2008. A Commerce Ministry official told Bloomberg the same month that exports in January plunged 25 percent from a year earlier to $185 million. Both figures have been shown to be incorrect.
The latest figures show total exports under all categories in January were $200.85 million, down 18.84 percent year-on year, while February's exports were $200.2 million, off 20.68 percent. Garment exports in January were worth $178.86 million, down 21.87 percent, while February's garment exports were worth $181 million, down 21.7 percent.
The US is a very important market ... but we are trying to open new markets.
According to the official who released the figures, the ministry relied on export figures supplied by garment exporters, which took up to two months to compile. Interim announcements of export values were likely to understate actual exports as they were drawn from incomplete data sets, the official, who asked not to be named, explained.
More timely information was held at customs, he added, but was not shared with the ministry. "Here we do not have eyes," the official said.
The official figures released Wednesday also show that total exports to the US fell 29.28 percent to 240.16 million in January and February, exports to the EU declined 12.28 percent to $89.18 million and exports to Canada fell 6.57 percent to $30.86 million.
In good news, exports to other markets climbed 59.76 percent to $40.86 million. "The US is a very important market for us, but we are trying to open new markets," the official said.
The Commerce Ministry official said export figures from March would not be available until the end of May, but added that early indications suggested the decline would be even greater than for January and February, possibly more than 35 percent down year-on-year.
Garment, textile and footwear exports amounted to $3.15 billion for the full-year 2008, up 5.06 percent from $2.99 billion in 2007. Exports increased every month on a year-by-year comparison with 2007 except April, when they fell 4.24 percent year-on-year, September, down 18.17 percent, and December, down 8.84 percent, indicating the complex relationship between the financial crisis and garment and footwear exports.
Kaing Monika, external affairs manager at the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), said the association had not yet seen the official figures. He said that a "quick survey" of exporters suggested exports could fall 35-40 percent for the quarter. "But the actual figures in US dollars we don't know."