Egypt's textile sector needs urgent reforms to defend itself from heightened international rivalry according to local officials.

"We don't have much time; our industry needs urgent decisions," Magdy Tolba, the head of Egypt's readymade garment export council, told AFP at a Cairo conference on the future of the textile sector.

Egypt's textile industry currently consists of about 1,500 manufacturers, has about 500,000 employees and boasts a yearly output of around US$3.2bn.

Although the country has good trade connections with the West plus cheap labour, it suffers from inadequate training plus an obsolete upstream sector, AFP pointed out.

"The upstream sector, which is controlled by the public sector, is where the problems are and we need to import raw material to keep up with the growth in readymade garments," said Helmy Abouleish, who heads the industrial modernisation centre at the ministry of trade.