Blog: Leonie BarrieWin some, lose some

Leonie Barrie | 17 May 2011

The price of cotton fibre appears to be stabilising after a year-long climb which saw it reach record highs in March. Cotton prices fell in April for the first time in seven months, according to the latest figures from an inter-governmental group, thanks to a slowdown in demand and a switch to man-made fibres. But while prices might have fallen, they continue to remain very high by historical standards.

The retreat comes as a relief to apparel retailers, brands and manufacturers, with cotton prices down from a peak of over US$2.44/lb and now stabilised at around $1.55/lb. But Canadian T-shirt and sock maker Gildan Activewear Inc has warned it could take another two years before prices return to more normal levels.

Turkey's clothing and textile industry continues to benefit from its close proximity to Europe and value-added capabilities, as well as a booming retail centre with its own designs, brands and collections. But storm clouds are gathering too. While the government's plan to introduce provisional safeguard duties on some fabric and apparel imports is intended to help local textile producers, the dangers of protectionism were questioned by domestic apparel manufacturers and brands at the recent Istanbul Fashion Apparel Conference.

Brazil and Argentina, meanwhile, are among almost 100 countries expected to lose tariff breaks for their textile and clothing exports to the EU, under a planned reform of the EU's Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) system. The European Commission wants to focus import duty concessions on poorer countries from January 2014.

The European textile and apparel industry claims plans to revise the GSP+ scheme could result in easier access for imported textiles from Pakistan - which is also set to benefit from temporary textile duty concessions to help it recover from the flooding that devastated much of the country last summer.

But long-debated proposals to introduce compulsory 'Made in' labels for all textile, clothing and footwear products imported into the EU have hit a stumbling block after members of the European Parliament and European Council of Ministers failed to agree on the plans. Instead, the European Commission has been given another two years to investigate the feasibility of such a scheme.

But the Italian clothing and textile industry is already winning plaudits for the 'Made in Italy' tag which has helped some of the country's leading luxury brands defy the downturn.


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