Cambodia’s year-over-year garment exports for the first quarter grew by 11 percent, according to the latest figures from the Commerce Ministry, indicating a possible recovery from a difficult 2014 for one of the country’s most important industries.
The value of garment exports hit $1.71 billion in the first three months of the year, up from $1.54 billion during the same period in 2014, according to Camcontrol, the Commerce Ministry’s import-export inspection unit.
At $5.75 billion, garments accounted for 80 percent of all exports last year, and made up roughly a third of the country’s gross domestic product, Camcontrol figures show.
The Finance Ministry’s customs department, which counts exports at the point of exit, tends to come out with higher export numbers. But the head of the department’s statistics office refused to release its figures for the first quarter without permission from the department director, who could not be reached.
As for Camcontrol, it says exports to the European Union (E.U.)—Cambodia’s largest market for garments—grew 16 percent, while exports to the U.S.—its second largest market—fell by 1 percent.
Exports to other unspecified countries, however, grew the fastest, at 20 percent, indicating that Cambodia is making strides in diversifying the markets it exports to.
The E.U. only recently overtook the U.S. as Cambodia’s largest export market for garments, due in large part to the duty-free access the country enjoys to the union.
In its latest economic update for the region, however, released in April, the World Bank warned that the rising U.S. dollar—to which Cambodia pegs its riel—could make exports to the E.U. increasingly less competitive. It warned, too, of rising production costs due to a new minimum wage that took effect in January and competition from more countries.
The pace of garment export growth slowed significantly in 2014, from 20 percent in 2013 down to 4 percent, as international brands cut back on orders.