Cambodian garment industry needs to survive crisis
Special Report: Global Financial Crisis
PHNOM PENH, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) — Garment, the foremost pillar industry of Cambodia, has an urgency to survive its crisis in the upcoming days, amid the ongoing global financial crisis and the recession of traditional demand from the U.S. market.
LESS EXPORT IN 2008
At an annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Federation of Textiles and Apparel (AFTEX) which was held here on Thursday, Cambodian Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh said that the garment industry saw a 2 percent decrease in its export in 2008 over 2007.
“This is better than my own expectation. I thought that it would have been down 5 to 7 percent,” said Van Sou Ieng, chairman of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC).
Previous local reports have attributed it to the withering demand of traditional client countries.
Around 70 percent of Cambodia’s garment products were sold to the United States, 4 percent to Canada and the rest mainly to European countries.
The export volume of the garment industry used to account for over 70 percent of the country’s total annual export volume.
In 2007, garment export earned 2.93 billion U.S. dollars for Cambodia, according to official figures.
The garment industry of the kingdom will face a 6- to 9-month-long crisis in 2009, due to lack of profitable orders, Van Sou Ieng said at the AFTEX meeting.
“I think that we will have a crisis 6 to 9 months long this year,” he said.
Due to the global financial crisis, especially the U.S. economic recession, most garment factories could not secure new worthy orders and the current orders could only sustain them until March, he said.
“The crisis has propelled some buyers to give prices too low to be acceptable for the producers, so they have no choice but shut down their factories,” he said.
Over 20 or even more out of the 400-strong garment factories of the kingdom have closed, leading to the unemployment of some 25,000 workers, he added.
Meanwhile, suspension of bank credit also spilled oil over the troubled water of the manufacturers, he said.
Japan might become the alternative market for the garment producers of Cambodia, as the demand of traditional purchasers has sharply sagged, said the chairman, adding “currently, Japanese orders are few, because their quality demand is so high that we can hardly meet it.”
Fortunately, Japanese buyers have already listed some suggestions which could help Cambodia improve product quality, he said.
“Two directors, rather than one, supervise the operation of every 10 workers. This is the open sesame that they give us,” he said.
The United States, as the largest buyer of Cambodian garment products, may need 2 to 3 years to cope with its economic recession, so it has become ever more urgent for Cambodian garment producers to find new markets, he added.
The garment factories of Cambodia used to employ some 300,000 people and have been the largest foreign currency contributor for the kingdom.
Garment, as a labor-intensive industry, is well-rooted in Asian countries, which still encompasses China, Vietnam and Indonesia.