Cambodian exports of footwear and related items topped $700 million in the first five months of 2022, representing gains of more than a third from the same period last year, in an upswing expected to continue as international tourism flows return to pre-Covid-19 levels.

From January-May, exports of footwear, socks, related products and parts thereof amounted to $702.06 million, up by nearly 35.9 per cent from the $516.73 million recorded in the first five months of 2021. These items accounted for about 7.5 per cent of the total export value for the period, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia (GDCE).

Last month alone, this category of exports registered $131.42 million, up by 27.7 per cent from $102.91 million in May 2021.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng told The Post on June 13 that effective control of Covid-19, underpinned by a mass vaccination programme, in large part helped keep manufacturing going strong during the crisis, resulting in a “steady increase” in these exports despite external shocks caused by the pandemic.

The Kingdom is also witnessing an uptrend in the number of manufacturers in the field, propelled by favourable investment laws, abundant cheap labour, and greater international market access thanks to free trade agreements (FTA) with China and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), he said.

He added that the favourable conditions set by the Cambodian investment legal framework provide significant impetus for these exports, which have managed to attract a number of major buyers such as the US, Canada, the UK, European countries, and regional markets.

Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that due in part to the fact that the majority of exports of footwear and related items reach the shores of developed countries such as the US and those in Europe, the Kingdom has received a “steady” influx of investment in the industry.

He predicted that orders for these items would pick up even further as international travel creeps back to pre-Covid levels.

“As I see it, Cambodia’s footwear exports to international markets will increase significantly from 2022 onwards, because when the tourism sector is doing well, demand for footwear will jump accordingly,” he opined.

Vanak stressed that the production of footwear, socks and related products was emerging as a key source of state revenues as well as job creation for Cambodians.

Cambodia Footwear Association president Ly Kunthai previously told The Post that as the Kingdom’s climate of relative political stability and favourable investment laws convince more factories to relocate from countries such as China and Myanmar, the production and export of these items will remain in growth territory.

“In 2022, I believe revenue from footwear exports will increase by 20-30 per cent over 2021, because as travel increases, demand for footwear will grow in tandem,” he said, adding that many prominent international brands such as Adidas, Clarks and Timberland manufacture their shoes in Cambodia.

Last year, exports of footwear, socks, related products and parts thereof totalled $1.39221 billion, up by 23.98 per cent from $1.12294 billion in 2020, according to the GDCE.