Garment exports increased by a little more than 15 percent in 2003, while footwear exports declined by slightly more than 16 percent in the same period, according to Ministry of Commerce statistics released Friday.
Garment exports totaled about $1.54 billion last year, up from $1.33 billion in 2002. Garments exports under quota to the US increased by about $50 million, while non-quota increased by about $72 million.
“The trend has been healthy due to the development of the labor compliance policy,” David Van, deputy secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said Friday.
GMAC and the Commerce Ministry are working to brand the country’s largest industry as one that respects international labor standards for textile workers in the hope of finding a niche market among socially-conscious buyers.
Reports from the International Labor Organization, which has been inspecting garment factories here since 2001, say the industry has little, if any, child labor, forced labor or sexual harassment. Major problems include involuntary overtime work, instances of anti-union discrimination and incorrect payment of wages.
The industry now has 197 factories that employ nearly 234,000 workers. In 1995, the industry had 20 factories employing nearly 19,000 workers.
It remains unclear whether the industry’s boom will continue after worldwide garment quotas expire for World Trade Organization members next year. “We have no idea,” Van said, adding that “small factories that are not able to cope with the changes in competitiveness will fold.”
As the garment industry continued to increase sales, the footwear industry contracted. It sold just under $33 million worth of shoes in 2003, down from $38 million in 2002.
In comparison, Vietnam, second only to China in global footwear production, exported $708 million worth of shoes in 2002.