As if the recent decision by the European Union to partially withdraw Cambodia's preferential access to the European market under the "Everything but Arms" (EBA) programme wasn’t bad enough, now the coronavirus outbreak is threatening the country’s apparel and textile industry further: With textile supplies from China being delayed or cancelled, up to 160,000 Cambodian garment workers could face the shutdown of their factories by the end of the month.
While ten factories suspended operations by the end of last month, by the end of March, it could be as many as 200 factories due to a shortage of raw materials, estimates Heng Sour, a spokesperson for Cambodia’s labor ministry according to Nikkei Asian Review. He suspects that in the worst-case scenario, this could affect 160,000 garment workers.
And there’s not much the country can do, at least not in the short term as Cambodia sources more than 60 percent of its textiles from China. Procuring the raw materials from another country, like India for example, could not be done quickly according to Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC).
With the 90,000 apparel workers that could be affected by revised tariffs to the EU market come August, 250,000 workers could feel the effects of either measure; one fourth of Cambodia’s workforce of one million. Now it remains to be seen how the Southeast Asian country will be able to buffer the effects of both developments.
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