Cambodia's footwear industry exports generated $1.3 billion in revenue in 2021, a more than 20 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2020, according to the Cambodia Footwear Association (CFA) president, with sector growth in 2022 projected to regain pre-pandemic momentum.

CFA president Ly Kunthai told The Post on April 5 that the increase was due to various factors both domestic and international, namely the reduced concerns about the severity of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, increased vaccination rates, reopening of countries, income stabilisation and the gradual recovering of tourism sector.

He said that in 2021, the export of footwear products reached $1.3 billion in trading volume, rising by 20.4 per cent from $1.08 billion the year before.

Kunthai said that as a result of the positive developments, footwear exports in 2022 are expected to outpace that of 2021.

He cited Cambodia’s receipt of adequate and timely supply of raw materials, especially from China, as a contributing factor to the Kingdom’s sped up recovery, and predicted that there would be a “significant” increase in Cambodian footwear orders this year.

He also credited the new Cambodian investment law, which came into force at the end of 2021 and aims to improve the existing legal framework of investment incentives, as providing “many attractive and favourable reasons” for investors to flock to Cambodia.

The Kingdom is also likely to see an increase in the number of factories relocating from countries such as China and Myanmar, he said, being a stable country with “good politics, favourable investment laws, a sizeable adult workforce and affordable prices”, he said.

“For 2022, I think the revenue from footwear exports will increase by 20-30 per cent year-on-year, because as travel increases, demand for footwear will increase accordingly,” he added.

The largest markets for made-in-Cambodia footwear are the US, Europe, Canada, the UK, Japan and other Asian countries, according to Kunthai.

In a meeting with the CFA and the Cambodia Travel Goods and Leather Association last week, Minister of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation Cham Prasidh said that despite being hit by the Covid-19 crisis, the Kingdom’s footwear, bags and travel goods exports have remained on an upward trend and that the industry seems poised to continue attracting investment, according to an industry ministry statement on April 2.

He noted that these positives stemmed from a combination of factors such as political and macroeconomic stability, a transparent investment system and incentives, especially in terms of preferential trade.

He added that the stability of the garment sector has been playing an important role in contributing to the development of the economy and job creation in Cambodia.

In the pursuit of profits, however, Prasidh said that factory owners and managers must ensure the rights and needs of their workers are respected and met.

“All factory associations must seriously consider participating in the ILO’s [International Labour Organisation] Better Factories Cambodia programme, which I established in 1998 to improve working conditions in Cambodia, and respect the rights of workers with a long-term vision for the reputation and future of the textile sector in Cambodia to gain the trust of customers.

“Each factory must consider this programme as the basis and key to its marketing,” he said.