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Nationalism key to increasing Cambodian made products

By Pang Socheneath

Trust and pride in Cambodian-made products have been identified as key factors to help address the low level currently available and sold in the Kingdom, according to both public and private sectors.

The government has previously highlighted the need to assist small and medium enterprises to invest in resolving these concerns as estimates are only 20 – 30% of registered products in Cambodia are locally made.

Layhay Chhea, Director of the Department of SMEs at the Ministry of Industry told Cambodia Investment Review that Nationalism is the main force towards the growth of local products adding most consumers still preferred foreign-made products.

“Cambodia should aim to replicate a country like South Korea which has an economy of zero after World War II but with Nationalism, it is now one of the superpowers in the region,” Layhay said.

Thyda Thaung, Founder of Thaung Enterprise a local salt-producing company told Cambodia Investment Review that she agreed there was a domination of foreign products in the Cambodian market.

“Cambodia should not discriminate between products based on where they are from but we should not allow too much bias between foreign and locally made,” Thaung said.

“Many local producers are dedicated to manufacturing high quality and safe products for consumers under sustainable and fair work conditions,” she added.

Sokmean Som, a local housewife described to Cambodia Investment Review that still she prefers to use foreign-made products such as food, clothes, and daily necessities over locally made ones.  

“My preference is mostly due to better packaging and design compared to the locally-produced ones,” Som said.

A collection of Cambodian made products and manufacturers.

Thyda Thaung agreed that packaging and design were still limited adding manufactures should be encouraged to learn more about consumer behaviors and marketing.

“In my company, we don’t only focus on nice products but also quality, safety and hygiene of our manufacturing process to ensure we follow all safety guidelines under Cambodian law,” she said.

“At the same time, the customer’s ability to comprehend the standards of various products by certain standard recognition is required to treat the quality of every product fairly,” she added.

As part of a larger business formalization agenda in 2020 the Cambodian government launched a single window, online business registration platform as a way to improve access to the formal economy for business owners.

Layhay Chhea added that ensuring ministry standards were met needed to improve the level of trust in locally made products adding a clear understanding of the packaging and design paramount.

“As an example, the minimum standards on a product like fish sauce is GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) or GHP (Good Hygiene Practice), therefore as long as the products have one of those standards no matter Cambodian or Thai, they are safe to use,” Layhay said.

Ensuring standards and packaging are consistent and meet all regulatory guidelines will be vital to allow Cambodian-made products into major international stores such as Makro, Aeon, and Thai Hout.

Cambodia’s first recently opened 7-Eleven branch has stated it will aim for half of the products sold to come from the small and medium-sized enterprises of Cambodia to help stimulate the economy and employment of local people.

The international business community remains ‘bullish’ on the local economy despite the recent GDP growth downgrade citing an ultra-fast vaccination drive and multiple bilateral and multilateral trade agreements to be implemented next year.

Asian Development Bank has forecast 5.5% growth in 2022 after downgrading this year’s forecast to 1.9% – down from 4.0% in its April outlook. Inflation was forecast to remain relatively stable this year at 2.9%.

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