South Africas textile and clothing sector is boasting new-found stability

South Africa's textile and clothing sector is boasting new-found stability

The decline of South Africa's beleaguered garment and textile industry is bottoming out, and the sector has stemmed job losses by 66% between 2010 and 2013, industry experts say.

In 2010, a total of 10,119 actual job losses were recorded by the sector but these numbers dropped significantly by almost half to 5,338 in 2011, further to 5,330 in 2012.

And they fell much more sharply to 3,416 last year, the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union (SACTWU) general secretary Andre Kriel told just-style.

Economic development minister Ibrahim Patel, too, has said the textile sector has achieved a lot in saving jobs. Kriel attributes the new-found stability to "decisive government support" and the union's 'Save Jobs' campaign.

Textile Federation (Texfed) executive director Brian Brink agrees that government production incentives and subsidies have helped. "The Clothing and Textile Competitiveness Improvement Programme (CTCIP) has dramatically assisted clothing and textile firms to upgrade plant and equipment and technology."

That said, Brink believes more could be done, with cheap textile imports plaguing the sector. "More than a third of all fabrics imported into South Africa are cleared free of duty either under free trade agreements or by way of the duty free rebate system," Brink notes.

While the nominal duty on fabrics is 22%, the average duty paid on fabric imports into South Africa is 10.8%

Brink says his organisation has been raising the problem since 2001 and "progress is slow," although the issue has been addressed.

Kriel explains that the government introduced a system of reference pricing to stop import dumping - and parliament last month reformed South Africa's Customs Control Act to increase controls on illegal imports.

Meanwhile, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) recently declared the garment and textile industry a "strategic sector" meaning imports will come under special scrutiny, to root out smuggling and piracy.

"Our industry is otherwise internationally competitive on pricing, quality and delivery times," Kriel claims.

As for textile inputs, South Africa's main export is raw wool fibre and its key export markets are China and Italy.