During Türkiye’s Champion Exporters Award Ceremony Istanbul Textile and Apparel Exporter Associations (IHKIB) and Türkiye Exporters Assembly (TIM) chairman Mustafa Gültepe noted apparel exporters continue to face problems with accessing finance.

He expects Export Import Bank (Eximbank) to return to its old daily limits so pointed out Türkiye urgently needs support to not completely fall out of the global competition race.

He added: “We also need to focus more on efficiency and value-added production. We have experienced various hardships before and managed to come out stronger from all of them. I have no doubt that we will get through this period as well.”

Gültepe cited two main reasons for the country’s difficulties in exports. Firstly, global markets have contracted, but, the main problem is high cost increases.

He said: “We have become a more expensive country than Europe. Especially in labour-intensive sectors, we have significantly lost our competitiveness.”

Gültepe pointed out that despite the high cost increases domestically, the stable exchange rate is harming his nation’s competitiveness so the country urgently needs support to stay in the global race.

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He believes cost increases and the exchange rate should move in parallel and stated: “If our input prices increase by 3% in a month, the exchange rate should increase by the same amount. Otherwise, we lose markets.”

In 2023 Türkiye’s exports contracted and he admitted that 2024 so far is experiencing market losses.

Gültepe shared: “We are down by approximately 14% in exports in the first four months. Unfortunately, imports are increasing rapidly. In the first quarter, there was a 21.7% increase in ready-to-wear imports. The contraction in exports and the increase in imports mean production and employment losses for us. Capacity utilisation has decreased to 65-70%. Last year, we lost approximately 200,000 jobs in ready-to-wear and textiles.”

The ceremony, which was held in Istanbul, celebrated the İHKİB members that had made the biggest contribution to Türkiye’s $19.3bn fashion export industry.

Gültepe reminded attendees that Türkiye is the sixth largest apparel supplier in the world and third largest supplier to the European Union (EU).

He said: “We are in a significant position not only in production but also in branded exports. Our fashion brands have over 3,000 stores and thousands of sales points in more than 100 countries.”

Gültepe also pointed out the fashion industry is going through a significant change and transformation process so İHKİB is using this period as an opportunity to make Istanbul a global fashion centre.

He explained: “The Istanbul Apparel and Fashion Fair (IFCO) and the Fabric, Yarn, and Textile Accessories Fair (TEXHIBITION) are the most important milestones of this goal. We have made both IFCO and TEXHIBITION the largest fairs in Europe in a very short time.

“We broke the visitor record at the fifth IFCO we held in February. We hosted more than 38,500 visitors from 159 countries at our fair. In March, 30,000 professionals from 110 countries visited the TEXHIBITION Fair. We have achieved two great success stories in the truest sense of the word. I believe it is high time for both IFCO and TEXHIBITION to be included in the ‘prestigious fairs’ category.”