The USAID Firms Project is helping to create jobs in Pakistans knitted garment factories

The USAID Firms Project is helping to create jobs in Pakistan's knitted garment factories

An initiative is underway to help small and medium sized knitted garment manufacturers in Pakistan build their businesses to meet the demands of European Union (EU) and international buyers - ultimately increasing orders.

The Firms Project in Pakistan is being led by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to create direct links with buyers, including components such as skill development, compliance and upgrades to machinery and systems.

Focusing on 20 selected small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), the goal is to produce sustainable quality and quantity at competitive prices.

This intervention coincides with an expected resurgence of interest in Pakistan as a low-cost source of cotton merchandise following its accession to the EU's GSP+ zero-tariff trade scheme from 1 January 2014.

As per statistics provided by SMEDA (the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority of Pakistan), there are around 2,500 sewing units in Pakistan, employing nearly 750,000 people.

The textile and garment sector has a significant role to play in the country's economy. Contributing 8.5% to the GDP and accounting for more than half of total exports, it also provides jobs to more than 38% of the manufacturing workforce.

That said, much of the industry's development is hampered by the fact that around three-quarters of Pakistan's garment sector consists of small businesses, which are generally inefficient, with high fabric wastage, stitching defects and low productivity. In turn, this can result in high costs and late deliveries.

Among the efforts to boost productivity, reduce rejections and improve quality, training is being given to middle and top management in areas such as line management, layout efficiency and planning, time and motion studies, production planning, material resource planning, export and trade marketing.

There will also be assistance in upgrading obsolete machinery with auto trimmers and CAD systems that will increase production and improve quality, and help with acquiring advanced management tools such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

Another pillar of the programme is to assist the manufacturers in gaining WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production) certification. Of the 2,500 garment-making units in Pakistan, just 132 are WRAP certified. The certification will help meet the social compliance requirements of major buyers in the US and international markets.

The USAID Firms Project will run through to December 2014, and its goals are to generate US$0.5m in export revenue, create 80 manufacturing jobs at the partner units and another 100 jobs in the ancillary sectors.

Click on the following link to read more: Pakistan apparel sourcing project seeks partners.