Garment exports increased in 2004, Commerce Ministry Secretary of State Sok Siphana said Tuesday, ahead of a series of World Bank-sponsored meetings starting Thursday on the future of Cambodian exports.
The value of garments exported last year was $1.95 billion, up 24 percent from $1.57 billion in 2003, Sok Siphana said.
Cambodian Investment Board figures received Tuesday show that approved direct investment increased in the garment sector in 2004, despite total approved investments in Cambodia declining during the year.
“I think that the garment and textile industry will remain the number one leading sector,” Sok Siphana said.
“Lowering costs and implementing the master plan in terms of market strategy are important for [its] survival.” he added.
Last year saw the end of sales under the Multi-Fiber Agreement that guaranteed Cambodia access to US and European markets, spurring fears for the future of the country’s garment industry.
But officials report continued growth in the garment sector, which has followed an upward trend since 1995 when the industry exported $26 million worth of garments.
While exact figures for all exports in 2004 are still being tabulated, garments likely made up about 80 percent of total exports, Sok Siphana said.
Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, downplayed the significance of the garment sector’s growth.
“Last year was the last year under quotas and what you see in the numbers is normal growth compared to previous years,” he said.
According to the Cambodian Investment Board, 55 projects, ranging from hotels to tobacco factories, were approved in 2004, promising to bring $216 million in fixed assets.
That compares with 47 projects in 2003 bringing $251 million in fixed assets.
Approved garment industry projects jumped to 31 projects intended to bring $71 million in fixed assets, from 18 proposed factories with $27 million in assets.
But, Loo said: “Every year we have new investors coming and going. If the government reforms and we get help from donors then I think you will see a lot of real investment interest in the garment industry.”