Despite the ongoing crisis in the eurozone and turmoil in the global economy, the textile and clothing industry in the 27 member states of the European Union (EU) achieved a 4.1% rise in year-on-year turnover in 2011.

Figures just released by Euratex, the European Apparel and Textile Confederation, show the combined turnover of the man-made fibre, textile and clothing sectors reached EUR179bn (US$227bn) in 2011, up from EUR172bn the year before.

But the performance still lags behind the turnover of EUR205.3bn achieved in 2007, before the global economic recession took hold.

The data, which is based on statistics from Euratex members, Eurostat and Euratex estimates, shows total turnover in the textile sector was 5% higher than in 2010 at EUR87.5bn, while clothing rose 2.7% to EUR81.5bn.

Imports into the EU-27 rose 9.8% to EUR93.1bn, of which textiles accounted for EUR25.4bn (+13.) and clothing EUR67.7bn (+8.3%). The main textile suppliers were China, Turkey, India, Pakistan and the United States; while the main clothing suppliers were China, Turkey, Bangladesh, India and Tunisia.

Exports from the EU-27 rose 13.3% to EUR 38.7bn, of which EUR20.3bn (+8.3%) were textiles and EUR18.4bn (+19.4%) was clothing. The main textile customers were the US, Turkey, China, Switzerland and Tunisia; and the main clothing customers for EU-made clothing were Switzerland, Russia, the US, Hong Kong and Japan.

There are still 146,000 textile and clothing companies in the EU - although this is 30% fewer than the 189,400 in 2007 - and between them they employ 1.8m workers. However, last year total employment fell by 2.3%.

Speaking at the Euratex annual general assembly last week, the organisation's president Alberto Paccanelli said the figures point to "a growing confidence into the future."

He added that initial estimates for 2012 show that although there is a strong slowdown in consumption in Europe, "we have some good news coming from the outside markets."

During the first quarter of the year, extra-EU exports have grown 8.1% in value and 6.8% in volume, whereas imports are down 10.1% in volume and by 5.8% in value.