Amid predictions that Cambodia’s economy will grow by around 5 percent this year, exports in the first nine months of 2010 have increased year-on-year by 20.97 percent to $2.536 billion, figures received yesterday from the Ministry of Commerce show.
Imports over the same period experienced a more modest rise, increasing by just 1.3 percent to $3.439 billion.
According to Kong Putheara, director of the trade department at the Ministry of Commerce, China, Vietnam and Hong Kong are currently the biggest importers of goods to Cambodia, while Cambodia’s biggest export markets are America, Canada and the Netherlands.
Mr Putheara said that even though most of the recovery in exports following the economic financial crisis had come from garments, there was a lot of expectation that rice would help decrease Cambodia’s trade deficit in the coming years.
Still, exports to neighboring Thailand and Vietnam during the first half of the year actually decreased while exports to China and South Korea only experienced slight gains.
In the first three quarters of the year Cambodia exported $29.3 million of cassava, $55.9 million of rubber and $54,662 of pepper, according to the figures, while garment exports reached to $2.26 billion.
The largest import items consisted of textiles and petroleum, which amounted to $1.62 billion and $419 million respectively.
Pheanuroth Sisowath, senior technical adviser with the International Trade Center in Cambodia, said that any significant growth in Cambodia’s exports would probably come down to a rise in exports of commodities like rice, rubber and cassava.
“In the coming years I think if we focus on the new rice policy we can expect an increase in exports,” he said, referring to a recently announced government policy to increase rice exports to one million tons annually by 2015, up from just 20,000 tons currently.
“We import too much…including basic goods like sugar,” he added.
The World Bank this week agreed with this assessment in its periodic report of the region’s economies, saying that economic growth in Cambodia heavily depended on the expansion on agriculture and agro-processing.
(Additional reporting by Simon Marks)