Byline: Jim Ostroff

WASHINGTON — U.S. apparel and textile imports surged 19 percent in February, buoyed by an extraordinary increase in yarn imports.
The huge import spurt, which saw 2.57 billion SME shipped here in February, marked the seventh consecutive month of double-digit import increases, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.
During February, textile imports jumped 21.9 percent, to 1.29 billion SME, which included a 38.4 percent leap in yarn imports. This follows a 47.3 percent yarn-sourcing increase in January. By comparison, sourcing of fabrics rose 14.8 percent in February, and imports of made-ups — a category that includes miscellaneous items like luggage and hats but not apparel — rose 21.8 percent.
For the first two months of this year, textile imports are up 23.7 percent from a year ago, to 2.61 billion SME. They are 14 percent ahead for the year ended in February, to 15.01 billion SME.
Apparel imports were up 16.3 percent during February, to 1.27 billion SME. Several Caribbean Basin nations’ apparel shipments here soared during the month.
As in recent months, shipments within a handful of product categories were responsible for the big monthly import increases, according to an analysis by Donald Foote, agreements division director of the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles and Apparel.
Eight product categories account for 84 percent of the February textile import rise. For example, imports of carded and combed cotton yarn skyrocketed 80.2 percent. Shipments here by already-leading sources of this yarn rose dramatically: Turkey’s were up 237 percent; Pakistan’s were up 186 percent, and Mexico’s were up 73 percent for combed cotton yarn.
February imports of man-made fiber textured yarns soared 52.3 percent. Contributing to this spurt were increases in shipments from leading-supplier countries including Thailand and Turkey, which saw respective February increases of 48 and 98 percent.
Honduras saw its overall apparel exports to the U.S. rise 31.5 percent, to 89 million SME in February, solidifying its standing as the U.S.’s second-largest foreign apparel supplier.
Mexico retained its top ranking in February, with 201 million SME sent here, up 10.8 percent.
Carlos Moore, the American Textile Manufacturers Institute’s executive vice president, said the big increases in shipments of cotton yarns by Pakistan validate the U.S.’s action to restrict these imports, now being challenged by Pakistan in the World Trade Organization.
Moore conceded that the imported yarns “are being used by our knitters and weavers, for sure, but on the other hand, our concern is that overall, imports of textile products are causing problems, whether these be yarns, fabric, apparel or home furnishings.”
At the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel, vice president Julia Hughes contended the continuing yarn import increases must be taken into account in advancing the pending legislation that would give makers in the CBI and Africa preferential treatment to sell apparel here, so long as it is made from U.S. yarns and fabrics.
“The import data show that the [domestic textile] industry doesn’t make all the yarn we need domestically right now,” she said, “which raises serious questions about how the industry would expect to increase supplies to meet the needs in Africa and the CBI.”