Chinese textile producers are importing more foreign machinery in a bid to raise quality and efficiency in the face of rising costs.

The country imported US$2.69bn worth of textile machinery in the first seven months of this year, a growth of 28% on the same period of last year, the General Administration of Customs said.

The majority, 47%, came from the European Union, while imports from Japan accounted for around 32%.

Higher export costs are pushing producers to seek greater efficiency with the latest technology, said the customs bureau in a statement on its website. Many firms are also trying to lift quality levels to pass on higher costs.

"Since China's entry into the WTO, textile companies are facing more serious challenges from foreign countries. Importing advanced machinery will to some extent boost their competing power," said the statement.
 
China's textile machinery producers "lag international firms in terms of technology and output," it added.

"Chinese machinery is cheaper but Japanese brands are better as they last longer," agreed Steven Zou, general manager of jacket supplier Monartex. "The Chinese machines may only last for three years. We use a lot of branded machines."

The customs bureau said that strong demand for machinery is being driven by the domestic market as well as exports.

Retail sales of clothing grew by 25% during the seven-month period. New or smaller factories in interior regions of the country are investing in machinery and expanding, benefiting from lower wages than the coastal areas.

By Dominique Patton.