Clothing exports to the US have risen by 151 per cent over the past two years as companies take advantage of duty-free access under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) an industry association bosses said yesterday.  

Clothing exports last year were worth almost R2 billion according to Jack Kipling, the chairman of the Export Council for the Clothing Industry. He added that exports to the US were growing at a faster rate than to Europe, where import duties were being phased out gradually.

In the past the US and Europe have both accounted for around 40 per cent of South African clothing exports, but the US share has now grown to about 60 per cent.

The AGOA legislation, introduced in October 2000, sets aside 1.5 per cent of US clothing imports for sub-Saharan African countries. The quota rises to a maximum of 3.5 per cent by 2008.

"Qualifying countries took up about 17 per cent of their quota in the first year," said Brian Brink, executive director of the 62-member Textile Federation of South Africa. "But there are indications that about 50 per cent of the quota will be achieved in the year to September 2002," he said.

Kipling said export performance was helped by the Duty Credit Certificate Scheme (DCCS) under which manufacturers use export credits to pay customs duties on materials imported for the domestic market.

But he denied there had been any misuse of the scheme, which was extended for five years in 2000.