Textile industry hanging by a thread
Scores of companies and tens of hundreds of jobs in Portugal’s clothing textile industry are hanging on a thread in an industry that has already lost 5,000 jobs since 2020.
Faced with the effects of the pandemic, unsurmountable competition from China, a slide in production by 18%, a fall in turnover of 14% according to the sector, as well as 20% of all production never actually being sold, the sector is having to embrace new and greener technologies such as 3D design and digital in order to survive.
According to an RTP special report on Thursday, Portuguese producers are switching to 100% cotton or hemp clothing because it is more environmentally friendly and has more demand, while the circular economy means that brand companies ordering clothing want less polyester and nylon and more products that can be returned to the circle of the supply chain.
“Compared to 2020, and based on the evolution of activity indices, the Portuguese Clothing and Textile Association (ATP) estimates that 5,000 jobs were lost in 2020 (down 4%), a fall in revenues of 18% (down €1.3Bn) in production and down 14%. (-€1.1Bn)
And 2021 hasn’t been any better for clothing exports. According to data from the statistical institute INE, the year began with a 10% fall in exports of textiles and clothing in January, with clothing falling 16% (-€46 million on January 2020).
Textiles for home furnishings and other textiles (non-clothing), including face masks increased +9% on January 2020 (+€6 million).
In terms of markets, exports to France were up by €2 million or +3% and €1.5 million to Denmark (+17%)
The UK, excluding Northern Ireland, led the table of countries to which exports had risen most, although there is no specific data for 2020.
This is because for statistical purposes, in 2020, there was just the designation United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland which in 2021 was divided into the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland) and the United Kingdom (not including Northern Ireland).
Spain continues to lead the ranking in terms of import falls: €30 million down (-24%).
In January, imports of clothing fell 44% (down €94 million) and textiles for furnishings fell 24%, an indication that the fall in sector activity will certainly have an impact on Portuguese exports in February and March.
By producing face masks and PPE (Personal Protection Equipment), many factories were able to maintain production in the first months of the pandemic. But now some companies may have to close their doors while others have accelerated their plans for innovation and modernisation, offering their clients innovative services such as samples in 3D or QR Codes that enable them to measure the ecological footprint of pieces of clothing as they respond to the growing concern for environmental issues and social responsibility.