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Construction sector jittery after signs of virus impact

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Cambodia imported 879,394 tonnes of building materials worth $317.74 million in the first quarter of this year. HENG CHIVOAN

Construction sector jittery after signs of virus impact

Cambodia imported 879,394 tonnes of building materials worth $317.74 million in the first quarter of this year as the sector braces for impact from the ongoing health crisis.

Broken down by category, the Kingdom imported 100,440 tonnes of steel worth $66.83 million, 384,609 tonnes of cement worth $24.57 million and 394,346 tonnes of construction equipment worth $226.34 million, data from the Department of Planning Statistics and Trade Information under the Ministry of Commerce’s General Department of Domestic Trade shows.

Most of the materials came from China, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Italy and Germany.

Cambodian Valuers and Estate Agents Association president Chrek Soknim told The Post on Wednesday that the Kingdom’s construction industry was performing well at the beginning of the first quarter.

However, as the Covid-19 outbreak tightened its grip, construction projects experienced some slowdown or came to a halt. “Everything had been going well in the first quarter, so the demand for construction materials was huge.”

He said construction activity had been normal this year until mid-March, but has dropped significantly since the beginning of this month.

Not only has the construction sector fallen, he said, the real estate market is stagnant. “I believe that all sectors will shrink in the second quarter, not just the construction sector.”

Cambodia Constructors Association general manager and secretary Chiv Sivpheng told The Post that construction in the Kingdom did not decline in the first three months of this year.

“In the first quarter, the amount of capital investment in the construction sector approved by the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction was up 51 per cent compared to the same period in 2019,” he said.

Noting that construction sites are currently not as active as in the first quarter, Sivpheng said the outbreak would hit the sector in the second quarter.

Last week, Ministry of Mines and Energy spokesman Yos Monirath told a press conference that Cambodia currently has five cement plants that are capable of producing more than eight million tonnes per annum.

“Cambodia has the ability to produce its own cement for domestic consumption without having to import it from abroad. We have enough cement manufacturing plants in the country, it means that we have not to spend any extra money on cement,” he said.

The Kingdom imported 4,667,077 tonnes of building materials worth $1.70 billion last year, up from 3,181,142 tonnes worth $1.07 billion in 2018, data from the department shows.

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