Spain's textile industry, struggling under an Asian import blitz, could lose up to 115,000 jobs or over 50 per cent of its workforce by 2010 if measures are not taken to boost its competitiveness.

The industry has already lost 20,000 jobs over the past year, leaving its labour force, including direct and non-auxiliary workers, at 215,000, a spokeswoman for the country's largest trade lobby, Consejo Intertextil Espanol (ICE), told just-style.

In the first half of the year, production fell 11 per cent "due to the Asian products invasion," CIE president Adria Serra said on Tuesday. Exports rose a mere 2 per cent.

Serra said textile imports from China had risen 45 per cent so far this year followed by arrivals from India, Turkey and Belgium, which increased 36 per cent, 16.8 per cent and 8.1 per cent, respectively.

China now accounts for nearly 16 per cent of imports compared to 12 per cent last year while Asia as a whole comprise 34 per cent of imports versus 32 per cent in 2004, according to the CIE. Product from Europe accounts for nearly 47 per cent.

Despite the European Union's (EU) recent relaxation of textile import quotas, imports from Eastern Europe have so far had a negligible impact, the spokeswoman added.

Apart from the import threat, the industry was also suffering from sagging sales in Europe and at home, Serra said.

The cheaper imports were blamed by local officials for the closure of 800 companies and the loss of 35,000 jobs between 2002 and 2004.

To fix the industry's woes, Serra called on the government to make good on its promise to launch a plan to aid the sector.

The plan, which calls for the state to offer financial assistance to help the sector boost its competitiveness, is so far moving slowly, she said.

Government offers of financial assistance for research and development (R&D) and international promotion have "not really gotten off the ground," the spokeswoman added.

The CIE also wants support for its efforts to move production to cheaper manufacturing spots such as Morocco and the Mediterranean basin to save costs and keep Spanish companies in business.

By Ivan Castano.