Byline: Josephine J. Bow

HONG KONG — Cotton Incorporated has just kicked off a massive year-long database project to provide sourcing information on all the apparel and home product manufacturers who use cotton in nine leading Asian textile exporting countries — excluding China, which will eventually be added.
The data will become available on the Internet, CD-ROM, as well as in print during 1996.
“Considering that importers can influence their suppliers, the database appears to be a tremendous opportunity to promote U.S. raw cotton,” said J. Nicholas Hahn, president and chief executive officer of Cotton Inc. in a statement from New York.
“The database will strengthen the link between U.S. importers’ foreign suppliers and the use of U.S. upland cotton,” he said.
Based on a recent Cotton Inc. survey among importers, 94 percent believe that the source of raw cotton affects fabric quality. Yet the survey also showed that less than 3 percent of the respondents actually know or inquire about the raw cotton source for their imported products.
Overseeing the project is David Birnbaum of Third Horizon Ltd., a Hong Kong-based textile industry consultant and publisher. Birnbaum’s latest offering is a detailed directory of nearly 5,000 garment factories and agents in Hong Kong and South China. “We tried to include all the information that buyers need to know before they get on a plane to visit a company,” he said.
“Many of the garment importers on our Cotton Board, people such as Julie Hughes [vice president, government relations, Associated Merchandising Corp.] had seen the directory,” said Lisa Helmer, Cotton Inc.’s senior director of importer programs. “They indicated that there was a great demand for such information worldwide in an accessible format,” she said.
The project is an outgrowth of Cotton Inc.’s developing relationship with U.S. importers. “Such a database will really open up the world market to buyers, especially smaller companies who might not have extensive sourcing resources,” said Helmer.
Birnbaum is targeting some 20,000 Asian entries — the majority being apparel manufacturers. “There are a slew of other categories, however, including hosiery, home goods, dyers and printers, yarn and piece-dyed makers and denim suppliers,” said Helmer.
Survey work in Taiwan has already begun, to be followed by the Philippines and Indonesia.
“Some of the problems we’re encountering are quite daunting, such as having to work simultaneously in many languages or the lack of efficient telecommunications in countries such as Bangladesh or Sri Lanka,” said Birnbaum.
“Also, many companies may be traditionally reluctant to openly provide information. However, most forward-thinking vendors realize that as global competition intensifies, up-to-date and reliable information becomes increasingly vital both for suppliers and buyers. We’re also getting enthusiastic cooperation from the various industry associations in each country,” he said.
The database will be updated continuously and, if the first phase proves successful, Cotton Inc. may cover Central America and the Caribbean in the future.
— Fairchild News Service

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