ZIMBABWE: Textile industry breaks through to erstwhile non-traditional market

HARARE: The textile and clothing industry has managed to break through to the erstwhile non-traditional American market; a newspaper reported here on July 26.

The textile and clothing industry is one of the five largest manufacturing sub-sectors in the country.

Niche markets for most garment- manufacturing firms have traditionally been South Africa and other countries in Southern Africa, and the East.

However, the foothold on the European and American market, especially North America, has gradually firmed, with the result that these are now accounting for about 10 percent of the total manufactured exports and more than 2, 5 percent of total export earnings to the country.

To date, products from this sector have been successfully spread to South Africa, Spain, the US, Australia, Sweden, Zambia and the United Kingdom.

As a vehicle for value addition, the manufacturing sector, particularly the textile and clothing industry, has managed to generate significant amounts of export receipts.

ZimTrade, the country’s trade promotion body that is mandated by the government to boost trade internationally, recently revealed that it was making efforts to furnish local manufacturers with the various international legislative frameworks that govern exports of these products.

The textile and clothing sub-sectors have played, and continue to play, a major role in the Zimbabwean economy, as one of the five largest manufacturing sub-sectors in Zimbabwe, and providing one of the most important consumer goods for the population.

ZimTrade is committed to continuing boosting the performance of this sector and increase the country’s export market share in international markets.

In its unending endeavours of providing accurate and reliable trade information, ZimTrade runs a full-fledged library, lined with up-to-date publications that provide detailed information on the clothing and textiles sector, including journals on specific markets, fashion magazines and reference books on specific clothing sectors, that allow players in the clothing sector to assess their markets and produce relevant and fashionable products that can be competitive in both local and export markets; said ZimTrade in its latest trade report.

Due to the dynamism inherent in the clothing sector, it has become necessary for local clothing and textile manufacturers to research on various export markets and, through comparisons made on the costs of production, assess the competitiveness of their products in various export markets.

For its part, the trade promotion body subscribes to the International Trade Centre (ITC) for information on the quality requirements of textile and clothing products in selected markets.

There are also cost-saving strategies used by other players in the clothing sector to boost production, maximise profits and continue to produce high-quality products that are being promoted by the organisation.

However, the industry has been facing formidable challenges on the local market due to shrinking disposable incomes and the hyper-inflationary environment in the country.

Furthermore, the foreign currency crunch presently obtaining on the local markets has also adversely affected production.

Though the international markets are prepared to pay a premium on quality products, the recent increases in cotton lint prices are threatening the survival of the lucrative sector.

Ginners are reportedly requesting a minimum of $300 000 per kilogramme of cotton lint, which, in essence, is a minimum premium of 150 percent over the prevailing world lint prices.

This would make the resultant products unsustainably expensive, if factored in the overall production costs and passed on to the consumer, and, therefore, uncompetitive on the international market.

Stakeholders in the industry have called on government to expedite the implementation of a central cotton marketing system and the revision of the inter-bank rate so as to realign the local prices of lint to international prices.

Cotton, which used to rank as the second after tobacco in the late 1990s, is the main ingredient in the textile industry and its pricing has become a topical issue on the national economic agenda.

The Government has been calling for value addition in the industry as opposed to the export of cotton lint.

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Added: July 27, 2006 Source: Agencies
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