EU Textile Industry Improves Performance In 2017

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European Union's (EU-28) textile industry performance showed an improvement in 2017, and is expected to further improve in 2018.

Fibre consumption by European mills increased to 3352 tonnes in 2017, up by 1.6% over the previous year. Household consumption of textiles & clothing improved 1.11% in 2017 to Euro 510.9 billion. Investments in European textile industry went up to Euro 4.9 billion, from Euro 4.7 billion in 2016.  Employment in the sector fell by 0.53% in 2017, to 1.69 million people. The number of companies too went down by 1330 to 176354 in 2017.

The Textile & Clothing industry is among the largest industrial branch in the EU. The industry accounts for some 5% of employment and 9% of companies in the total EU manufacturing sector, as well as over 4% of total merchandises' exports. A large number of companies are concentrated in Italy and more than half of the EU employment is concentrated in four countries. Beside Italy, the largest employer, the other high employing countries are Romania, Poland and Portugal.

The solid dynamics in the textile industry in 2017 are partly attributable to the external sector, as Extra-EU exports expanded at a robust pace since the beginning of the year.

A growth was also recorded in EU imports. As a result, EU Imports reached € 112 bill. in 2017 and exports almost Euro 48 billion. This evolution impacted the overall trade balance of the EU which deficit slipped back.

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During 2017, T&C extra-EU imports went up by +1.6% compared to 2016, as growth decelerated during the last quarter of the year. Imports from the EU top 10 suppliers were all up apart from China- EU 1st supplier- and the US.

EU exports were relatively dynamic (+7.1% as compared with 2016) thanks to double digit growths on the Swiss, Norwegian, Russian and Ukrainian markets. These robust dynamics were also attributable to respectable exports performances on other EU main markets as China, Morocco, Turkey and Tunisia. Extra-EU imports rose by 1.6% to Euro 112.1 billion. And extra-EU exports rose 7.1% to Euro 47.9 billion.

The US is the top market for EU-28 textile and apparel companies. However, textile exports to the US went down in 2017, to Euro 2605 million, a fall of 0.5% compared to 2016. EU-28 textile exports to China went up by 4.45% to Euro 2064 million. The third largest textile market for the EU is Turkey, where exports witnessed a growth of 6.36% to Euro 1773 million.

EU apparel export markets

Switzerland is the largest apparel market for the EU-28. Exports to the country rose 37.94% to Euro 4748 million. Clothing exports to the second largest market – US fell by 0.77% to Euro 3097 million. Exports to Russia were up 10.58% to Euro 2279 million 2017.

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China in 2017, is ranked among the top five apparel markets for EU 28. Exports to China were at Euro 1394 million.

EU-28 textile & apparel imports

China remains the largest textile supplier to the EU-28. Textile imports from China were up by 3.33% to Euro 10087 million in 2017. Turkey is the second largest supplier of textiles to EU-28, with exports worth Euro 4930 million, a growth of 0.33%.

EU-28 textile imports from India went up by 6.07% to Euro 2815 million. China, Bangladesh and Turkey are the top apparel supplies to EU-28. Imports from China at Euro 27212 million were 2.02% lower than in 2016. Imports from Bangladesh at Euro 15311 million went up by 2.31%.

Imports from Cambodia at Euro 9580 million were marginally up by 0.52%.

Will 2018 witness the positive trends?

The EU textile industry evolution improved in 2017, in particular during the last quarter of the year, thanks to its quality, productivity, flexibility and innovation. On the contrary, the disruptive trends observed in the clothing industry strengthened throughout 2017.

The labour market trends showed a mixed picture between the upstream and downstream sectors in the value chain. The solid dynamics in the textile industry are also attributable to the upsurge of T&C retail sales and from the external sector, as exports expanded at a robust pace since the beginning of the year.

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In March 2018, the EU Business Climate Indicator* worsened markedly in both textile and clothing industries, with respectively -4.5 and -2.8 points. The marked decrease in industry confidence resulted from managers more pessimistic views on all three components, i.e. production expectations, the current stock of finished products, and the overall order books. Managers' confidence of their export order books level and of employment expectations for the months ahead, which are not included in the confidence indicator, deteriorated too.

(*EU Commission's survey: European business cycle indicators and Business Industry Survey (subsector database))    

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