From Sagging Sales, Silk Now Set To Soar

After years of demise due to low production capacity and poor links to international markets, exports of Cambodian silk products are expected to bounce back this year, according to a report released by the international trade NGO Kearny Alliance.

“Exports in the line are expected to see substantial growth, with close to half of manufacturers seeing exports to surge by at least 10 percent” in 2010, said the report.

But many challenges still exist in the industry, which is predominantly propped up by NGOs and donor agencies. High costs due to a lack of domestic supply and low production capabilities both threaten the sector’s success, experts said.

Exports for Cambodian-made silk products dropped by 15 percent in 2009 compared to the previous year, said Seiha Heng, project assistant for the Commerce Ministry’s Sector-Wide Silk Project, which was launched in 2007.

According to the Kearny Alliance report, the total revenue of 21 featured silk suppliers fell by 25 percent to $1 million in 2008 compared to the previous year.

However, all surveyed silk makers said they expected exports to increase during the course of 2010, especially to markets in Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region, the report said.

By supplying industry information on the 21 profiled companies, the report aimed to supply potential buyers with information on new products in supply markets and, thus, help bolster profits for silk producers and apparel companies.

“Cambodian handmade silks are stunning–but not widely known in overseas markets,” said Alexander Boome, program director for Kearny Alliance. “We aim to change that through this report.”

The report compliments efforts made by the government, which in September, announced plans to “institutionalize” Cambodia’s silk sector by implementing measures to increase yarn production, improve design techniques for silk garments and facilitate export links with international markets.

Mr Heng said initiatives within the project were yet to come into effect, but would soon provide the sector with some financial clout.

“We are discussing it with donors, the government and projects managers,” he said.

The Kearny Alliance report outlines details on pricing and packaging for more than 100 exported products, including scarves, wallets and apparel.

“Sourcing from suppliers in the report is a win-win-win proposition: Buyers profit from offering customers quality hand-crafted products; consumers benefit by enjoying unique accessories, knowing their purchase has made a difference to people’s lives – and the workers can take pride able to provide for themselves and support their families,” Sokunthy Heng, project manager for Kearny Alliance, is quoted in the report as saying.

Despite the difficulties experienced within the silk industry in recent years, the report said the sector boasts “broad experience in supplying custom-made items and accepting low minimum order requirements.”

According a 2007 report released by the Economic Institute of Cambodia, domestic silk supply is estimated at five tons per year, while total demand amounts to 400 tons, largely met by imports from China and Vietnam.


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