The export performance of Ethiopia's textile and apparel sector is lagging behind plan in the first six months of the year, according to the latest figures. 

The country's textile and apparel industry reached US$41.1m in exports in the first half of fiscal 2015/16 – meeting just 70% of its targeted $60.1m. The Ethiopian Textile Industry Development Institute (ETIDI) says the industry is facing a number of challenges, including companies' managerial and technical capacity, power outages and fluctuation, a shortage of manpower and high turnover, weak company linkages, and delays in implementing investment projects.

The evaluation also revealed that cotton production was planned on 262,000 hectares of land, while only 65,000 hectares of land was actually used. The El Nino weather phenomenon led to the country's worst drought in decades and destroyed cotton crops over 14,000 hectares of land.

ETIDI's plan and information management director, Abebe Kasse, said he was confident the industry could achieve its target for the year, but added that the government believes the sector has to be more export-oriented and put more emphasis on quality. 

Industry State Minister, Tadesse Haile, added that besides formulating appropriate policy framework, the government has been working to produce the manpower needed to develop the country's textile industry and its exports. In addition, various institutions, including ETIDI, have also been established to provide support to the sector. 

The Bahir Dar Institute of Technology is now focusing entirely on textile and textile related courses, while five universities have launched textile programmes to train engineers for the sector. Textile parks have also been established. 

Haile, however, says that while the textile and apparel sector has grown significantly in terms of capacity, scale, production, employment and export, much still remains to be done.

All eyes on Ethiopia as an emerging sourcing hub