Clothing exporters in Hong Kong were given gloomy news on Thursday when it was revealed orders to Japan plunged 23 per cent during the first three months of 2002 amid the economic slowdown and weakening yen.

Figures from the Hong Kong Trade Development Council showed exports slumped to $US352 million in the period but said that figure was in line with expectations.

Japan was Hong Kong's fourth-largest importer of garments and clothing last year, behind the US, China and the UK.