Blog: Leonie BarrieColombia #2

Leonie Barrie | 22 January 2004

I think I'm rapidly heading for information overload after four days of fair interviews and factory visits. With its 380 stands Colombiatex is far bigger than expected, and has been attracting queues of visitors since it opened two days ago - one of the most positive signs that an industry that is on the up. Official visitor figures aren't available yet, but considerable effort has been put into attracting key international players and the feedback seems to suggest that targets have been hit on this score.

So far I haven't had a chance to get a real feel for Medellin - that's set to happen Saturday - but this much I do know:
- Only a couple of mobile phone networks cover Colombia - and mine isn't one of them!
- Colombian women - and men too - love their lingerie and there are more than 250 underwear brands in the country to satisfy this demand.
- Until two years ago guerilla activity was such an issue that Colombians couldn't drive from one city to another.
- The legacy of these travel restrictions is that the industry is completely vertically integrated. Firms supplying the full package from fabrics and threads to trims, washing and sewing are all located within a few miles radius of each other.
- The lack of tourism (for obvious reasons) means the country has had little exposure in the outside world, and has contributed to the real sense of isolation felt by the business community.
- Air-freight is the preferred method of transporting garments out of the country.
- Freight takes three days to the US, and seven days to Europe.
- The FOB price of a pair of 5-pocket jeans made from Colombian fabric is around $7.30.
- The average monthly salary for a Colombian textile worker is $130.
- Despite the current drive to generate international business, surprisingly little English is spoken here, particularly in hotels and airports.


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