By  on June 22, 1994

WASHINGTON -- Cotton shortages and rising prices put a damper on import growth in April.

Textile and apparel imports rose 3.9 percent in April compared with April 1993, a growth rate of less than half the 8.8 percent seen in the first quarter, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

"Cotton prices are having a real effect on imports, as well as domestically," said Donald Foote, director of the agreements division of Commerce's Office of Textiles and Apparel. "Only now is it clearly showing up in the figures."

Textile imports rose 5.8 percent in April against the previous April, to 683.6 million square meters equivalent, while apparel imports increased 1.7 percent, reaching 532 million SME.

In the first quarter, textile imports increased 8.4 percent against 1993's first quarter, while apparel imports gained 9.2 percent. In 1993, textile imports rose 11.5 percent against the prior year, while apparel imports increased 6.6 percent.

Cotton yarn imports fell 29.3 percent against April 1993, to 25 million SME, compared with an increase of 2.9 percent in 1993 over 1992. In January through April, cotton sewing thread in categories 300 and 301 fell by 25 million SME to 105.8 million SME, with shipments from Thailand, Indonesia and Mexico declining.

Cotton fabric imports dropped 15 percent in April against the prior April, to 134.5 million SME, contrasting with a 6.9 percent gain last year against the previous year.

In the first four months of the year, category 313 -- woven cotton sheeting -- dropped by 20 SME to 125.7 million SME, with China and Brazil losing the most ground. Imports of cotton poplin and broadcloth sheeting, category 314, fell 27 million SME to 58.9 million SME, with imports from Taiwan, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Malaysia shrinking. Category 317, cotton twill, fell 22 percent to 54.4 million SME, with fewer shipments from India, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

Imports of cotton apparel rose 2.1 percent in April against April 1993, to 289.2 million SME, compared with overall growth of 11 percent last year.

Quota restraints are not responsible for any of the downturns in cotton imports because all the countries with falling imports have plenty of quota left to fill, said Foote. Thus the cotton shortage -- as well as the subsequent rise in the price of the fiber -- appears to be responsible for most of the drop.Imports of man-made fiber products were mixed last month. Imports of man-made yarn rose 16.8 percent in April against April 1993, to 93.6 million SME, far lower than the 28.4 percent increase seen last year.

Man-made fiber fabric imports grew 14.7 percent in April, to 208.2 million SME, higher than 1993's 13.3 percent growth. Man-made fiber apparel imports dropped 0.4 percent against April 1994 to 211.4 million SME, after growing 2.6 percent last year against the prior year.

Textile-apparel imports from China, the number-one foreign supplier to the U.S., fell 2.4 percent from April 1993, to 139.6 million SME from 143 million SME. For the year to date, a particularly large decline came in category 313 -- woven cotton sheeting -- which dropped 67 percent to 8 million SME. Men's and boys' cotton trousers -- category 347 -- fell 70 percent for the year to date, to 4 million SME, and women's and girls' cotton trousers -- category 348 -- dropped 81.2 percent, to 1.7 million SME.

Imports from Taiwan, another key supplier, fell sharply in April, dropping 17.5 percent against April 1993, to 75.5 million SME. That's almost double the 9 percent drop in the first quarter and significantly deeper than the 3.1 percent decline in 1993.

Textile and apparel imports from Mexico rose 11.3 percent in April against April 1993, to 65.8 million SME, compared with 24.2 percent growth last year.

Canadian imports increased 35 percent in April against the prior April, to 106.6 million SME. That compares with 14.2 percent growth in 1993. Foote said Canadian imports tend to be industrial fabrics that are not disruptive to U.S. markets.

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