Byline: Kristi Ellis

WASHINGTON — In the midst of the war on terrorism and the economic slump, apparel and textile imports rose 2.7 percent in October against a year ago, surprising many observers and marking the third-highest volume month on record.
The rise in October reversed two months of declines and contributed to a year-to-date increase of 0.2 percent to 27.99 billion square meter equivalents.
Textile imports rose 6 percent in October against the same month a year ago, while apparel imports decreased by 0.5 percent.
“Demand is weak and imports aren’t up much,” said Charles McMillion, chief economist with MBG Information Services. “The troubling thing is that demand is weaker than imports imply, which suggests imports are taking more market share away from domestic producers.”
McMillion said he wasn’t surprised to see an increase in October’s import numbers, but other economists were expecting declines.
“We thought the events of Sept. 11 would have a terrible impact on imports, but they didn’t because the [merchandise] was already in the pipeline,” said Donald Foote, director of the agreements division of Commerce’s Office of Textiles & Apparel.
Shipments from Asia were already on the water after the terrorists attacks in the U.S. and Asian import numbers were expected to fall sharply in October, but they didn’t.
“Virtually every Asian country was up in import numbers,” said Foote.
China led the pack in October with an 11 percent increase in textile and apparel imports. The countries with the two biggest declines in total imports in October were Mexico, the largest supplier of textiles and apparel, which dropped 10 percent, and the Dominican Republic, which fell 14 percent.
“For the first 10 months of the year, among the countries with the largest changes in textile and apparel imports, Mexico’s plunge almost matches the combined surge of Pakistan, Indonesia and Cambodia,” Foote added.
On the textile side for the year to date, the primary decreases were in combed cotton yarn and man-made fiber filament yarn, both textured and regular, while the increases came in man-made fiber textile bags and tents, cotton bar mops, kitchen linens and polishing cloths, knit fabric and nonwoven fabric.
Women’s apparel outperformed men’s during the first 10 months. The major increases in women’s were in cotton knit blouses, cotton trousers, sweaters and pajamas, while the largest decreases in men’s were cotton woven shirts, cotton trousers and cotton underwear.

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