Cambodia's textile industry can grow with Brazilian cotton

Last month, Abrapa participated in the first Brazilian multi-sector business mission to the country; The focus was to show the potential of Brazilian cotton

02.04.2024 | 15:25 (UTC -3)
Catarina Guedes

The Brazilian Association of Cotton Producers (Abrapa) participated in the first Brazilian multisector business mission to Cambodia, between the 19th and 28th of March. The focus was to show how Brazilian cotton can contribute to the great potential, still unexploited, that the Cambodian textile industry has ahead of it. The initiative was carried out by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MRE) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (Mapa).

Over the past 20 years, Cambodia has increased its clothing exports by 12% per year, rising from revenues worth US$1 billion to US$9 billion in 2022. This year, the Southeast Asian country has positioned itself as the seventh largest clothing exporter in the world, according to data from the World Trade Statistical Review 2023. However, the country imports 100% of the yarns and fabrics it needs to supply its factories. By opening the market to the import of cotton and investing in the opening of spinning mills, it can experience a leap in economic development. 

This vision of the future was the central message taken by Abrapa's director of International Relations, Marcelo Duarte, to the MRE mission. Responsible for Cotton Brazil, an initiative that represents the Brazilian cotton production chain on a global scale, the executive presented to Cambodian businesspeople and sector leaders a study that maps the potential of the country's textile industry.

“The spinning sector can provide more than 400% value addition to the Cambodian economy, which means adding US$2,4 billion in revenue per year. Not to mention the social gains, such as job creation and new business opportunities”, analyzed Duarte. Today, one of the main bottlenecks faced by the industrial sector is the supply of stable and affordable energy. 

Brazil is already a candidate to supplier of the raw material. The third largest producer in the world and second largest exporter of cotton, the country has stood out for its advances in fiber quality indices, product traceability and responsible production. In the 2022/23 harvest, 82% of Brazilian production received socio-environmental certification through the Responsible Brazilian Cotton (ABR) program. Furthermore, Brazil is the world's largest supplier of cotton with Better Cotton licensing. 

At least two major trends in the world market contribute to the development of the Cambodian textile industry. The first of these is the search for other supplier markets, in addition to China. “One of the countries that can benefit from this demand for diversification is Cambodia, which currently accounts for 2% of global clothing trade”, points out Marcelo Duarte. 

The second trend is the search for increasingly sustainable clothing and textile products by the end consumer. In this context, cotton – a natural and recyclable fiber – is a more responsible option than synthetic fibers. 

About the mission

The multisectoral business mission was carried out by the Department of Trade Promotion, Investments and Agriculture of Itamaraty (DPRA), an entity of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MRE). In addition to Cambodia, the program included Vietnam and Thailand – two countries that are already consolidated markets for Brazilian cotton. 

This was the first official Brazilian business mission to Cambodia in history. In recent years, Brazil has sought to get closer diplomatically and commercially to the Southeast Asian country. In 2023, Brazilian Chancellor Mauro Vieira officially visited the Cambodian capital, Phom Penh, and, this year, the Brazilian Government intends to establish the Brazilian Embassy in the country.

Mosaic Biosciences March 2024