In the first nine months of 2023, Cambodia reported a decrease of over 17% in the export of apparel and clothing accessories – crocheted, knitted and non-knitted – compared to the same period last year.

Despite this decline, exports have shown signs of recovery in recent months, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE).

The GDCE’s International Commodity Trade Statistics show that from January to September, exports of goods under codes 61 and 62, which cover apparel and clothing accessories, reached $5.926 billion. This represents a drop of 17.35% from the $7.175 billion recorded in the same interval last year.

A breakdown indicates that exports under code 61, encompassing items made of knitted fabric, reached $4.145 billion, a decline of 18.9%. Meanwhile, exports under code 62 (woven fabric) totalled $1.784 billion, reflecting a 13.6% decrease.

Goods under these codes accounted for nearly 35% of Cambodia’s total exports of $16.946 billion during the nine-month period.

GDCE data for September indicates a slight movement, with exports of $689.68 million, only 2.49% less than the $707.31 million in September 2022.

Ly Khun Thai, president of the Confederation of Cambodia Investors Association (CCIA) and the Cambodian Footwear Association (CFA), said the reduction in garment exports over the past year is not a result of Cambodia’s production capabilities but rather a decline in international demand.

He attributes this to global economic challenges, notably geopolitical tensions such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“The primary cause for Cambodia’s reduced garment exports is reduced market demand,” he told The Post.

“For the remainder of 2023, as global travel picks up, we anticipate a partial recovery in garment exports.

We’re optimistic that orders might see an uptick through 2024,” he added.

Hong Vanak, an economic researcher at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, noted that the global economic downturn has broadly impacted international trade. During such times, he said expenditures are typically limited to essentials like food.

“The primary markets for Cambodian garments are developed nations and major economies. Should the global economy rebound, orders will undoubtedly surge,” he said.

Kaing Monika, deputy secretary-general of the Textile, Apparel, Footwear and Travel Goods Association in Cambodia (TAFTAC), said garment exports have seen a downturn since late 2022.

He attributes this decline to economic challenges in major countries, stemming from the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

He said the primary destinations for Cambodian apparel are the US, EU, Japan, Canada and the UK.

According to TAFTAC, as of early August, there were 1,077 factories in the sector, providing employment to approximately 760,000 citizens.

For reference, exports of apparel and clothing accessories under codes 61 and 62 in 2022 reached $9.035 billion, marking a 12.69% increase from the $8.018 billion reported in 2021, as per the GDCE.