The value of Vietnam's textile and garment exports rose 15.4% in the first quarter of this year, according to the latest figures, cementing their position as the country's largest foreign currency earning industry.

Turnover reached US$3.23bn during the three month period, the Vietnam General Statistics Office said, with March accounting for US$1.15bn. FDI (foreign direct investment) companies account for around 40% of the total.

"Orders usually reduce in the first quarter compared to the others, so the figure of US$3.2bn export turnover shows an excellent effort from the companies", said Mrs Dang Phuong Dung, vice chairman of the Vietnam Textile and Garment Association (VITAS).

However, the export growth seen during the quarter is slower than the 27.9% hike booked in the same period last year.

Shipments to the EU have fallen amid the ongoing debt crisis there, while competitors from India and Indonesia have also reduced their prices to attract more orders.

To offset the slump, VITAS is advising local enterprises to promote shipments to other emerging markets including Korea, China, India, New Zealand and Russia.

The import value of production materials also slowed during the first quarter, with fabric down 11.1% to US$1.3bn, yarn and fibre slipping 13.3% to US$341m, and cotton down 36.6% to US$202m.