Cambodia's “iron and steel” imports in 2022 clocked in at $359.819 million, rising by 23.08 per cent year-on-year from $292.339 million, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE).

This category of items, corresponding to Chapter 72 of the harmonised tariff schedule, accounted for 1.202 per cent of the $29.942 billion value of the Kingdom’s total imports over the year, GDCE statistics show.

Last month alone, the Kingdom imported $32.407 millions worth of iron and steel, up 28.7 per cent from $25.183 million in December 2021, and up 26.9 per cent from $25.544 million in November 2022.

The GDCE did not reveal any tonnage figures. To clarify, these imports do not include “articles of iron or steel”, which instead fall under Chapter 73 of the tariff schedule.

Cambodia Constructors Association general manager Chiv Sivpheng told The Post that imports of iron, steel and other construction materials are on a steady upward trajectory, with momentum supplied by recovery in the industry that he expects to carry throughout 2023.

However, Sivpheng does not expect any major jump in these imports in the near-term, at least until volatility in global economic growth settles to more comfortable levels.

And conversely, “the increase in iron and steel imports indicates a resumption – albeit sluggish – of construction activity in Cambodia”, he said, adding that the bulk of imported iron and steel used by construction players is sourced from Vietnam, China and Thailand.

For reference, Trading Economics data shows that, in 2021, Cambodia imported “iron and steel” worth a total of $292.34 million, of which $124.4 million was from Vietnam, $134.04 million from China, and $6.41 million from Thailand.

In a recent interview with The Post, Housing Development Association of Cambodia secretary-general Huy Vanna remarked that the large-building construction segment is slowly recovering from its Covid-19 induced slump, but still needs more time to return to its “strong” pre-2018 state.

“Regarding the current state of construction, most projects are small, such as local housing developments, while large foreign-invested buildings have made less progress,” he said.

The prospect of steelmaking in the Kingdom to keep imports in check and tap into growing domestic demand has drawn the interest of investors.

One such example is the Chinese-owned Hong De Sheng (Cambodia) Steel Co Ltd, whose $16.7 million steelworks in Kampong Speu province opened in early December 2020. In its initial stage, the factory was said to have an annual production capacity of 500,000 tonnes.

Of note, between January and November 2022, the government issued construction permits for 3,827 projects nationwide with total registered capital of $2.635 billion – down by 98 developments and 49.42 per cent in terms of value over the same time in 2021, according to a Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction report.