A recently-launched development strategy could take the garment and related sectors “to the next level” and enhance competitiveness on the global stage if all stakeholders fully commit to its implementation, according to Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) secretary-general Ken Loo on June 14.

The Ministry of Economy and Finance on March 21 launched the “Cambodia Garment, Footwear and Travel Goods [GTF] Sector Development Strategy 2022-2027” in hopes of setting common development goals towards gaining independence in the industry while ensuring sustainability and inclusivity.

The overarching vision for this strategy is to develop the Cambodian GTF sector by 2027 into a significantly more unique, competitive, value-added driven, resilient and environmentally sustainable industry that represents a pillar of economic diversification, ministry secretary of state Phan Phalla told March 21’s meeting introducing and formally implementing the strategy.

Loo told The Post that GMAC has been actively engaged in the development of the sector by building up skills and scaling up value chains and investment inflows, and was “very involved” in the drafting of the strategy.

He said that tangible moves have been made towards fulfilling the goals laid out in the document concerning topics such as employability and upskilling, logistics and value chains, upstream and downstream investments, and renewable energy. “If comprehensively implemented, the strategy will surely make our sector more competitive globally.”

At March 21’s launch, Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng said that this policy document will be a roadmap in “defining a common vision, objectives, goals and strategic plans to manage and strengthen this sector in a ‘Cambodian context’”.

“This strategy will enable Cambodia to seize opportunities as well as respond to the rapid changes in regional and global architecture, aiming to transform the sector into an industry that is environmentally sustainable, resilient and high value-added,” he said.

At the same event, Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth noted that this is the first strategy that “spurs the growth of the garment sector both in the short and medium-to-long term”.

During that period, “the garment sector will continue to be a potential economic mainstay by expanding and strengthening local industrial bases for exports, and improve on the regional and global value chain”, he said.

Even prior to the strategy’s launch, exports of garments, footwear, travel goods and other textile-related products were on a substantial growth path, surging by $627.8 million or 24.8 per cent year-on-year to reach $3.155 billion in January-March, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia (GDCE).

GMAC’s Loo affirmed that the US was the largest buyer during the period, accounting for about 43 per cent. Although the GDCE did not break down the figures by category, Loo said that exports of garments and travel goods rose by 20 per cent and 48 per cent year-on-year.

“Travel goods” is a designation that includes suitcases, backpacks, handbags, wallets and similar items.

The 2021 JETRO Survey on Business Conditions of Japanese Companies Operating Overseas, released on December 7, indicated that just 39 per cent of respondents reported profits last year, citing high production costs.

Loo pointed out that the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict has sent fuel prices soaring, pressuring logistics costs, while the Covid-19 situation in Shanghai and elsewhere in China have also catalysed major supply chain disruptions.

Nonetheless, “there will be continued growth in the travel goods industry”, he said.

“As our minimum wage keeps increasing, and remains higher than in competitors, we need to improve and upskill our workers to raise productivity and also to move up the value chain.”