Trade With Indonesia up but Logistics a Hurdle

Trade and tourism between Indonesia and Cambodia is growing but the two countries can still increase cooperation in those fields, according to participants in the 7th Indonesian Trade and Tourism Promotion exhibition on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich on Sunday.

The sale of Indonesian pharmaceuticals, food products and construction materials to Cambodia has increased along with tourists, but neither has reached its full potential, said Muhammad Muhsinin Dolisada, first secretary for social and cultural affairs at the Indonesian Embassy.

“Indonesian businesses haven’t ac­knowledged the potential of Cambodia, which is due to the Cambodian government’s lack of promotion. There needs to be more promotion to regional countries to explore dif­ferent markets and maximize Cambodia’s potential,” Mr. Dolisada said in an interview at the exhibition.

Indonesians are more familiar with regional neighbors Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia because the countries are promoted as tourist destinations in Indonesia. Cambodia is not and is missing out on visitors because of it, he said.

“Cambodia is receiving more Indonesian visitors especially at Angkor Wat—not so much Phnom Penh,” Mr. Dolisada said.

Melati Irawati, first secretary for ec­onomic affairs at the Indonesian Embassy, said that trade should be consolidated by reducing logistical obstacles.

There is no direct air link be­tween Jakarta and Phnom Penh, one of last remaining Asean capitals not connected by flight with the Cambodian capital.

“We want to promote Indonesian trade and have strong ties with Cambodia but currently it’s difficult to get products to Cambodia. They have to go via Singapore, Kuala Lum­­pur and Bangkok, which takes a lot of time,” Ms. Irawati said.

“It’s hard [for Cambodia] to com­pete with countries like Thailand and Vietnam which don’t have that problem.”

Trade between the two nations has grown steadily at an average rate of 14.4 percent from 2008 to 2012, while total trade from Jan­u­ary to July hit $185 million, an in­crease of 6.6 percent on the same period last year.

Pharmaceuticals are proving popular because they are known for their high quality and competitive prices, vendors said.

At the exhibition, To Sun Ey and his wife, Vong Sathara, were promoting painkiller and flu tablets, Sudrex and Flumol, respectively, which they import from Indonesia.

“Indonesian products are very popular and more effective than Indian and Malaysian equivalents,” Ms. Sathara said.

“Indonesian medicines are popular among doctors as they trust the products’ quality and reliability…. We sell a lot of pills in Kompong Cham, Prey Veng and Siem Reap, where there is less competition from other pharmaceutical companies,” she said.

Both the painkiller and the flu tablets retail at $4 for a box of 100 pills and the couple say they sell about 8,000 boxes a month.

Similarly, for Thoeun Sothea at Theana  (Cambodia) Trading Co. Ltd., which imports Indonesian cosmetics, the big market for Indonesian products lies outside Phnom Penh, in provincial areas where consumer spending is growing and there is less competition from other brands.

“We sell a lot of our products in Siem Reap, Kompong Cham and Ta­keo provinces because the standard of living there is quite high and there aren’t as many com­petitors as there are in Phnom Penh,” Ms. Sothea said.

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