By  on February 22, 1994

FLORENCE -- The rising cost of raw materials was the big complaint at the 34th edition of the Pitti Immagine Filati yarn fair here. The good news, exhibitors say, was that with the lira continuing to be weak, the higher prices on their products caused by increased costs are not deterring U.S. buyers.

The three-day fair featuring yarns for spring-summer 1995 knitwear ran through Feb. 11.

Yarn manufacturers pinpointed the increase in fiber costs at a minimum of 15 percent and said that in some cases, they ran considerably higher. A lot of the increases are on fibers from the Far East, especially China.

As a consequence, mill executives agreed they had to raise the prices of their new yarn collections by approximately 15 percent against last year.

Most manufacturers attributed the rise to the increasing demand for knitwear yarns and growing problems in obtaining certain materials, such as cashmere.

"It's becoming difficult to find large quantities of cashmere in China," noted a spokeswoman for Loro Piana, one of the world's leading cashmere producers. "The Chinese have learned the knitwear skills and techniques. They're keeping more raw materials for themselves."

Francesco Lucchesi, general manager at Industria Italiana Filati SpA, known for its blended yarns, said: "Unfortunately, the prices of raw materials are in dollars and German marks and since the lira is so weak against these currencies, it's very hard for us to absorb the increases."

According to Andrea Lupi, yarn division manager for Lanerossi, which makes a variety of yarns in addition to its primary business in wool, the price of raw cotton has risen 30 percent within the past few months, wool increased 40 percent and silk bourette quadrupled in price.

While the higher prices will further penalize Italian buyers, who are already burdened by the country's troubled economy, the strong dollar against the lira has encouraged exports to the U.S.

"Thanks to the strong dollar, our American clients barely noticed our price increases," said Lucchesi.

Executives were enthusiastic about U.S. traffic and agreed that they had seen more U.S. buyers than a year ago and that hey were spending more.

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