ITC helps Cambodian silk companies boost exports
Cambodian silk companies have increased their exports and connected with new buyers by participating in a trade fair in Germany, as part of a project implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC).
Four silk companies secured orders worth US$ 110,000 after attending the Ambiente Trade Fair in Frankfurt from 7 to 11 February 2014. The companies met about 30 new and potential buyers – of which several placed orders on the spot – and initiated partnerships with leading European Fairtrade wholesalers.
ITC and the Switzerland Global Enterprise jointly organized the companies’ participation in the trade fair as part of ITC’s High Value Silk Project, under the Cambodia Export Diversification and Expansion Programme (CEDEP I). The goal of the project is to promote high-value silk exports and increase the competitiveness of the silk sector to create jobs, particularly for women; increase workers’ income and ultimately reduce poverty.
ITC has worked with VillageWorks, a women-owned Fairtrade handicraft company registered with the World Fair Trade Organization, to help the company develop a three-year export plan, improve marketing skills, create a brand identity and increase product sales. Sales increased by 40% from 2012 to 2013, and the number of buyers increased by 85% since project support began in 2013.
‘Learning how to develop an export plan is making our business structure more professional. This is especially useful when we need to analyze and write down our historical performance, current capacities, our current needs and our projection and sales forecasts and strategic planning,’ said Anak Norm, General Manager of VillageWorks. ‘Through monitoring our export plans, we were able to compare our progress and assess if we are meeting our target.’
Representatives of VillageWorks met 21 buyers at the Ambiente Trade Fair, with four buyers confirming orders on the spot and an additional three buyers placing potential orders.
Farmers and producers living in rural areas make up 85% of the Cambodian population. In the silk-weaving industry, women make up the vast majority of the 20,000-strong workforce.
After assessing the export potential of various sectors, the Government of Cambodia identified the silk industry as a strategic area for poverty reduction. Silk weaving can directly contribute to job creation, particularly in rural communities. The sector also contributes to the economic empowerment of women and helps preserve Cambodia’s rich cultural heritage.
Since the project’s launch in October 2012, 11 companies have received training and customized coaching on product and market development. The beneficiaries, mostly women-owned businesses working with weavers in rural areas, have developed export plans, improved their marketing materials, upgraded their showrooms and shops, developed new relationships with international buyers, and developed their corporate brand images and new product collections according to market demand.
ITC is implementing the High Value Silk Project in partnership with the Ministry of Commerce. ITC has been supporting the Cambodian silk sector since 2005 with financial support from New Zealand, Switzerland, UNDP and the Enhanced Integrated Framework.