Cambodian-assembled bicycles are shifting into higher gears and pedalling their way across the world in higher numbers, smoothly manoeuvring through various Covid-linked headwinds, amid an apparent surge in confidence among investors and consumers.
While the protracted coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly had some impact on production chains, the Kingdom managed to roll 1.86 million bicycles into the international market over the first eight months of this year, worth $416.85 million, as reported by the Ministry of Commerce.
This represents a jump of $82.17 million or 24.55 per cent from the $334.67 million recorded from January to August 2020, the ministry noted.
Ministry spokesman Seang Thay told The Post on September 7 that the Cambodian bicycle export market has remained in positive territory in recent years, ascribing the current upswing to a combination of factors.
He listed three predominant examples – constant improvements in market access; buyer confidence in Cambodian ability to deliver; and the sustainability of production chains, underpinned by the effective management of Covid-19.
Thay acknowledged that Covid had induced a brief lull in international bicycle orders,
but presented the rise in turnover during the January-August period as a manifestation “of the efforts of the Ministry of Commerce and relevant ministries and institutions to encourage buyers to resume placing orders for Cambodia bicycles, with confidence”.
He shared that there are five major bicycle assembly factories in the Kingdom – all in the southeastern province of Svay Rieng – A and J (Cambodia) Co Ltd, Speedtech Industrial Co Ltd, Smart Tech (Cambodia) Co Ltd, XDS Bicycle (Cambodia) Co Ltd and Evergrand Bicycle (Cambodia) Co Ltd.
There are 50 countries that import bicycles from Cambodia, he said, highlighting the US, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Canada, the UK, Denmark, Australia, Austria, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic as notable buyers.
Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, suggested that the uptick in exports could also be rationalised as a result of a diverse skilled labour force that commands lower wages; favourable and attractive investment laws and regulations; and a broad and varied international customer base that places high numbers of orders.
“This growth illustrates the health of the Cambodian bicycle export industry and is also a point of interest for us, as a non-textile industry that is recognised as stronger and more resilient than the garment sector,” he said. The garment sector is the backbone of the Kingdom’s export-driven economy.
Vanak maintained that the Cambodian bicycle industry would remain on an expansionary path for the foreseeable future, noting that it prominently features in the Kingdom’s export diversification strategy, which leans strongly towards non-garments.
And ultimately, he said, the strategy is a component of broader efforts to inject international money into the Cambodian economy.
Last year, the Kingdom exported $527.08 million worth of bicycles, marking a 27.78 per cent year-on-year surge, emerging as ASEAN’s largest exporter and world number-five, the ministry reported.
While no figures were available for the number of bicycles exported in 2020, online trade publication Bike Europe reported that the Kingdom shipped out more than 1.42 million bicycles in 2017, up by nine per cent from 1.26 million in the previous year.
According to Bike Europe, Cambodia has become the leading supplier of bicycles to the EU since 2017, overtaking Taiwan, which held the position for more than two decades.