The value of Cambodia’s total imports and exports of goods reached $11.160 billion in the first four months of this year, said a Ministry of Economy and Finance report.
The Kingdom exported $4.430 billion worth of goods during the period, up 7.7 per cent year-on-year and imported $6.736 billion, up 6.7 per cent, despite the reverberating local and global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on economies and trade ties.
However, the report noted that the growth during the period was much less than the jump seen between 2018 and last year – 14.3 per cent for exports and 25.10 per cent for imports.
It said: “Overall, export earnings have maintained good growth despite the growing challenges our trade partners face due to the global outbreak of the Covid-19 disease.”
It cited strong growth in January and February as the main reason for the increase in Cambodian exports and imports in the first four months, remarking on the lacklustre performance in March and April.
Cambodian exports soared 24 per cent year-on-year to $2.563 billion in the first two months of this year, according to ministry data as reported by local channel BTV News in April.
The Kingdom imported more than $3.6 billion worth of goods during the period, up 22 per cent over the year-ago period.
Royal Academy of Cambodia economics researcher Hong Vanak told The Post on Tuesday that growth in exports during the first four months was largely backed by pre-2020 sales orders, made before the pandemic.
Large orders are usually made at least three months before delivery, resulting in a steady supply of goods in the first couple of months which gradually lost momentum.
“The increase in trade volume in the first four months was due to the fact that we were in the phase of delivering goods that had already been agreed, but then the impetus gradually slowed down,” he said, adding that demand for food stockpiles at the time was also high.
Registering a note of pessimism, he said further growth beyond the first four months would not be possible. Exports and imports “may see a decrease – there will be no more growth”.
Cambodia Rice Federation secretary-general Lun Yeng told The Post on Tuesday that rice exports have steadily increased since the beginning of this year.
Cambodia exported 300,252 tonnes of rice – equivalent to $210 million – to the international market in the first four months of the year, up 40.46 per cent over the 213,763 tonnes reported in the same period last year, he said.
He added that he did not expect any signs of risk that rice exports would fall during the year.
As the pandemic wanes and countries continue to reopen, Cambodian trade with its global partners will see a strong rebound.
Last week, the ministry predicted that the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) would shrink 1.9 per cent this year but would recover 3.5 per cent next year.
Ministry spokesman Meas Soksensan said Cambodia’s economy now relies on three key sectors – industry, services and agriculture. The Covid-19 crisis is having a major impact on the industrial and services sectors.
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.
However, the Kingdom’s trade deficit with the rest of the world continued to widen last year to $7.66 billion, a 31.6 per cent increase compared to 2018.
Cambodia mainly exports garments, textiles, footwear, milled rice and bicycles, and imports raw materials for the garment and automotive sectors, fuel and construction materials.
The US is the biggest market for Cambodia accounting for 29.6 per cent of the Kingdom’s total exports last year.
Japan is Cambodia’s second biggest export destination with 7.7 per cent, followed by the Germany at 7.2 per cent, China (6.9 per cent), and the UK (6.6 per cent).
Cambodian imports were mostly from China, which accounted for 43.1 per cent of the total in 2019. Thailand is second at 15.5 per cent, Vietnam (13.6 per cent), Japan (4.7 per cent) and South Korea (3.4 per cent).