Cambodia raked in $331.947 million from the export of bicycles in the first half (H1) of 2023, down 30.52 per cent from $477.755 million in 2022H1 and down 32.12 per cent from $489.005 million in 2022H2, according to Customs (GDCE) statistics reported by the Ministry of Commerce.

Using a July 10 GDCE bulletin for reference, this accounted for 89.02 per cent of all exports in the “vehicles other than railway or tramway rolling-stock, and parts and accessories thereof” category, which corresponds to Chapter 87 of the Harmonised System (HS) of Tariff Nomenclature.

Chapter 87 exports were to the tune of $372.883 million in 2023H1, down 25.6 per cent from $501.221 million in 2022H1 and down 29.50 per cent from $528.88 million in 2022H2, according to “International Merchandise Trade Statistics” bulletins published by the GDCE.

This figure included $552,331.90 worth of bicycle parts, as noted by the commerce ministry.

No figures were immediately available for the number of bicycles exported.

Royal Academy of Cambodia economist Hong Vanak put the first-half fall in overseas bicycle sales down to competition with foreign manufacturers as well as consumers’ reduced spending on non-essential non-food products amid economic pressures, particularly in the Kingdom’s target export markets.

Vanak anticipates a recovery in international demand for Cambodian bicycles and parts as the global economy perks back up, but underlines the significance of improving product quality and establishing export channels to new markets.

“Although Cambodian-made bicycles are of good quality and well-known brands, everything depends on the buyers. If orders dry up, so too does income from that industry,” he said.

According to Vanak, advantageous tariff arrangements, bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, and other government measures will all help to boost the Kingdom’s export capacity.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng remarked that exports of locally-made bicycles mostly go to developed countries such as the US and Canada, as well as the UK and other European nations.

Heng argued that rising health and environmental concerns would shift sales of Cambodian bikes up a gear. “An increasing focus on health and the environment will continue to fuel demand for the bicycles,” he said.

According to Heng, the majority of the investors in the domestic bicycle-manufacturing market are from Taiwan and most of their projects are located in special economic zones (SEZ) of Bavet town, Svay Rieng province.

As of end-2022, there were five bicycle factories in Cambodia, all located in SEZs of Svay Rieng province. According to Fresh News, these are: 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.

Generally seen as a type of commercial oasis, an SEZ is a specially-defined region within a jurisdiction’s borders that is subject to different – typically more liberal – legal, administrative and economic regulations than elsewhere in the same jurisdiction, and can include unique tax, logistical or one-stop service arrangements designed to attract business and investment.

Commerce ministry spokesman Penn Sovicheat confirms that Cambodia ships bicycles to more than 50 countries and territories, adding that the two-wheeled machines have emerged as a major export item for the Kingdom, along the likes of garments, footwear and bags.

Citing GDCE statistics, the commerce ministry earlier reported that Cambodia last year exported bicycles to the tune of $966.760 million, representing a striking increase of 48.48 per cent over the $651.113 million logged in 2021.

According to the GDCE, this represented 93.85 per cent of the $1.030 billion in Chapter 87 commodities exported last year. In 2021, bicycles accounted for 94.37 per cent of the $689.977 million in Chapter 87 exports.