Cambodia  imported nearly $306 million worth of iron and steel in the first 10 months of 2023, a slight increase from the same period in 2022. However, the import value in October fell by more than 15% year on year, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia (GDCE).

From January to October 2023, imports of goods classified under Harmonized System (HS) Code 72, which include iron and steel, totalled $305.97 million, up 1.4% from $301.87 million in the same period of 2022. The amount equates to 1.5% of the country’s total import value of $20.07 billion for the interval.

For October alone, Code 72 imports amounted to $25.44 million, down 15.4% from $30.09 million in October 2022, according to the GDCE.

Chiv Sivpheng, general manager of the Cambodia Constructors Association (CCA), stated that despite improvements in the global economic situation and increased travel compared to the Covid-19 epidemic, the recovery of the country’s construction industry requires more time, as the sector typically takes longer to recover than others. He noted that the completion of large projects also takes longer. 

He said that the global economic and political crisis over the past four years has disrupted or halted the construction of many large projects in every country. 

“When the construction sector is underperforming, the demand for construction materials such as steel, cement, floor tiles, wiring and electrical equipment also decreases,” he stated.

“The slowdown in construction, as well as the growth in domestic production, may be the main reasons for the small increase in … imports over the period,” he added.

He also mentioned that purchases of Code 72 products from abroad are likely to increase from 2024 onwards, as economic growth and tourism may boost activity. He added that most of the iron and steel used in the sector are imported from Vietnam, China and Thailand.

Im Seng Hour, branch manager of Century 21 Zillion Holding in Sihanoukville, noted the gradual return of foreign investors, particularly from Indonesia and China. He said this has spurred some unfinished construction sites in Preah Sihanouk province to recommence after having been dormant for over three years. The effort aims to meet the growing demand for rental business locations. 

“In recent times, I have noticed that buildings left unfinished for the last two-three years have started to be rebuilt due to the increasing demand for rent, especially from Indonesian and Chinese investors, for both accommodation and business,” he said. 

The Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) issued a certificate of registration to Huale Steel (Cambodia) Co Ltd, a $40 million steel plant located in the Sihanoukville Port Special Economic Zone (SPSEZ) on October 20. Other foundries have also been operating in Banteay Meanchey and Kampong Speu provinces, as per the CDC.

The Kingdom’s imports of Code 72 goods amounted to $359.9 million in 2022, marking a 23.1% increase from the $292.4 million recorded in 2021. The expenditure accounted for approximately 1.2% of the country’s total imports, which amounted to $29.94 billion in 2022, as per the GDCE.