Egypt's exports of ready-made garments jumped 17% in the first quarter of 2018, with the US accounting for the largest share of its shipments, new figures show.

In the January to March period, exports amounted to US$385m compared to $330m a year earlier, according to Egypt Daily quoting figures from the Ready Made Garments Export Council.

The US accounted for around 48% of Egypt's ready-made garment exports in the quarter, amounting to $185m, up 16% from $160m in 2017.

January recorded the highest increase in the quarter of 24% to $129m. February's exports were up 21% to $133m and March saw exports climb 6% to $123m.

The Ready Made Garments Export Council is targeting a 20% jump in ready-made garment exports to a record $1.8bn for the full year.

Mohamed Hunter, president of the export board, says the most significant challenges facing the sector are the competitive power of export markets, especially Bangladesh, which exports around $29bn annually, as well as China and Vietnam.

He notes the competitiveness of Egyptian products has declined owing to the high cost of production, with the price of services, infrastructure, and wages, in addition to transport, social insurance and raw materials, having risen 300% since 2011.

In addition, Hunter stresses the importance of working to expand technical and vocational education and to increase the number of clothing production sections in technical schools in order to fill the shortage of trained employees and to link education output to the needs of factories. He also highlights the need for Egypt's garment sector to strengthen its presence in existing markets and increase its competitiveness rather than look to enter new markets.

Egypt's government is pushing expansion of the textile and garment sectors, with its Vision 2025 policy aiming to create one million jobs.