Taking advantage of the close proximity and strong taste for affordable Thai products, manufacturers from Thailand continue to double their efforts to maintain a strong foothold in Cambodia’s ever-growing consumer market.
The domestic demand for consumer products is certainly flourishing in the Kingdom, largely fuelled by rising income plus the existence of a young population, and Thai exporters are racing to push their home-made products to hungry consumers across the border.
The intense competition was evident when 216 companies participated at the Top Thai Brand 2019 trade fair that was held at the Diamond Island Exhibition and Convention Centre at Koh Pich from January 31 to February 3.
“Many manufacturers in Thailand are using this [exhibition] as a channel to introduce their products in the Cambodian market, to find distributors, learn about the popularity of their products and test the market,” Jirawuth Suwanna-arj, Minister Counsellor (Commercial) in the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh told The Post last week.
Thai-made goods ranging from snacks, toiletries, cosmetics, pharmaceutical products, kitchen appliances, home decors, footwear and plastic products, among others, filled nearly 300 booths at the exhibition centre.
Part of the three million strong small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Thailand went through a special selection process to participate in the trade fair in Phnom Penh.
“There were about 500 applicants and we only selected the best companies to participate in this exhibition."
“They must be Thai producers and go through a selection process before they are selected. We don’t focus on quantity but quality,” said Jirawuth.
About 20,000 visitors thronged the expo daily, which has now turned into an annual affair in the Kingdom, and Cambodia is slowly maturing into a popular destination for international exhibitors who capitalise on the country’s growing middle class.
Strategically located in the Asean region plus good connectivity to major trading countries, a stable economy supported by favourable trade policies and friendly tax regime, Cambodia has become an important attraction to foreign exporters, especially among Asian companies.
The National Bank of Cambodia has forecast that the domestic economic growth would hover around seven per cent this year, thus successfully maintaining its robust growth momentum over the decades.
The Diamond Island Exhibition and Convention Centre is expected to host nearly 24 international-level trade fairs this year – which mirrors the growing interest among foreign exporters in the evolving Cambodian consumer market.
“Cambodia is a potential market for Thai producers, Cambodia is a neighbour to Thailand and we share a long history, and consumers’ behaviour is the same as in Thailand.
“Cambodian consumers trust Thai products for their quality,” he added.
The Top Thai Brand 2019 expo is aimed to promote high quality products made in Thailand at affordable price and to encourage local businesses to procure directly from Thai factories.
Jirawuth said that Thai producers are not only selling their finished products in Cambodia but also sourcing for raw materials.
“We just don’t want to sell in Cambodia but also source for products, particularly agriculture products like mangoes, cassava and maize to be used in animal feed production and vegetables,” he added.
Thailand and Cambodia, both members of Asean, continue to enjoy strong trade ties and bilateral trade crossed $7 billion last year, as imports and exports flowed easily across the borders.
Speaking at the same event, Oranooch Pakarat-Rutten, Tourism Authority of Thailand’s marketing representative for Cambodia and Laos, told The Post that tourism between both countries was on the growth path.
“Tourism grew about 15 per cent in 2018 compared to 2017. Cambodia is not considered a poor country anymore, its GDP (gross domestic product) is growing and more people are travelling, and Thailand is not far away (from Cambodia),” said Oranooch.
The improvement in connectivity, between Bangkok and Phnom Penh, by land and frequent air services with 32 daily flights have significantly contributed to tourism growth.
“We are now trying to target more students to study in Thailand and when they return home they can do business,” she said.
Nearly 800,000 Cambodians visited Thailand last year.