Cambodia: Jan-Jul imports of iron, steel up 20% to $215M

Cambodia imported $215.26 million worth of iron and steel in the first seven months of 2022, up by 20.1 per cent over the $179.18 million logged in the same period in 2021, Customs reported, as the construction sector and general economic situation in the Kingdom continue to improve.

This accounted for 1.13 per cent of the value of the Kingdom’s total imports over the period, at more than $19.051 billion, data from the General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia show.

In July alone, iron and steel imports amounted to $29.49 million, up by 20.6 per cent from the $24.46 million recorded in the same month of 2021.

Speaking to The Post on September 4, Global Real Estate Association president Sam Soknoeun commented that the construction sector is “gradually” recovering as new projects start to pick up steam after two years of Covid-induced slowdown.

He credited the increase in imports of iron, steel and other construction materials to effective government management of Covid-19 and a step-up in work on developments that had been suspended or slowed down during the pandemic.

With the volume of iron and steel imports largely tied to construction, Soknoeun predicts that imports would further increase as the world rolls back Covid-related restrictions.

He claimed that although the real estate market staged a V-shaped recovery, transactions have yet to reach pre-Covid levels.

On the other hand, Huy Vanna, secretary-general of advisory firm Housing Development Association of Cambodia (HDAC), says that construction activity is “not good at the moment” and could remain stagnant “for a long time” without a meaningful let-up in global crises like Covid-19, the Ukraine conflict and the Taiwan issue.

“All of these issues affect cash flows and global economic growth as a whole,” he said, pointing out that the condominium segment is the worst-hit in Cambodia as a result of the international crises.

Regarding iron and steel costs for the construction sector, Vanna stated: “Although iron and steel prices for the construction sector increased by about 20-30 per cent in the first quarter of 2022, they fell back in the second quarter. Overall, the prices of iron and steel in the first half of 2022 are about the same as last year.”

He says the Kingdom generally imports iron and steel from markets such as Vietnam, Thailand and China.

However, a growing number of investors are entering the Cambodian steelmaking market. For example, in early December 2020, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Chinese-owned Hong De Sheng (Cambodia) Steel Co Ltd’s $16.7 million steelworks in Kampong Speu province began operations. In its initial stage, the factory was said to have an annual production capacity of 500,000 tonnes.

The Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction says it approved a total of 2,000 construction projects in the first half of 2022, representing an area of 2.860 million square metres and capital investment of $1.206 billion.