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Brakes put on auto imports

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Cambodia imported $600.903 million worth of vehicles and parts in the first five months of the year, down 17.39 per cent from $727.358 million during the same period last year. Heng Chivoan

Brakes put on auto imports

With the Covid-19 pandemic cutting into the global vehicle and parts manufacturing industry and transforming Cambodians’ spending habits, imports have seen a sharp decline this year.

Cambodia imported $600.903 million worth of vehicles and parts in the first five months of the year, plunging 17.39 per cent on a yearly basis from $727.358 million, data from the General Department of Customs and Excise show.

Broken down by category, the Kingdom imported $96.654 million worth of motorbikes (down 15.43 per cent year-on-year) and $251.385 million worth of cars (down 21.46 per cent).

It imported $17.448 million worth of vehicles for 10 or more passengers (down 59.98 per cent), $171.065 million worth of freight vehicles (down 8.25 per cent) and $31.815 million worth of parts (down 12.74 per cent).

Imports of other vehicles were worth $32.536 million (up 22.86 per cent).

Ministry of Commerce spokesman Pen Sovicheat told The Post on Tuesday that the outbreak of Covid-19 had sapped the momentum of international trade in almost every country, notably that of non-agricultural products.

He said: “These slumps have become an overarching trend during these times.”

But as the world achieves and maintains better control over the Covid-19 situation, he said, signs of gradual recovery in import volumes have emerged.

“As Covid-19 eases, imports are likely to take a big jump by the end of the year,” said Sovicheat.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng said the domestic market for vehicles had contracted significantly during the Covid-19 era, and imports were expected to shrink accordingly.

“The Covid-19 disease has slashed demand for cars and motorbikes to almost zero,” he said, adding that lost incomes during the pandemic has forced people to think twice before investing in a new vehicle.

But once revenues return to pre-crisis levels, demand will rebound, he said.

Royal Academy of Cambodia economics researcher Hong Vanak said the Covid-19 crisis had roiled domestic demand and supply from producing countries.

“There are many reasons why the value of these imports fell, including Cambodians focusing a greater portion of their budget on food and trimming unnecessary spending, the strain on the logistics and transport sector, and factories abroad being hit by disruptions and uncertainties,” said Vanak.

He expressed his optimism that imports of vehicles and parts will see steady growth after the Covid-19 situation improves. “Things will likely return to growth once the borders open, but I do not anticipate a strong rebound.”

The Kingdom’s total import and export volume was valued at $36.7 billion last year, data from the National Bank of Cambodia show.

Exports amounted to $14.53 billion and imports $22.19 billion, a year-on-year increase of 12.7 per cent and 18.6 per cent, respectively.

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