Magazine article International Trade Forum

Cotton Household Textiles - Opportunities for Exporters

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Cotton Household Textiles - Opportunities for Exporters

Article excerpt


Imports are playing an increasingly important role in the large West European market for cotton household textiles, according to a new study. Although total consumption of cotton bed linen, towels and table linen is not growing to any great extent in these markets, the expanding role of imports to meet the extensive demand that exists is of particular interest to developing countries, which are among the principal foreign sources. Over the 1980-88 period the share of demand covered by imports rose dramatically - from 27% to 42% for bed linen, from 48% to 62% for towels and from 39% to 56% for table linen. In 1988 developing countries accounted for 42% of total imports of bed linen into the four leading importing countries (supplying about 27,000 tons), 35% of the towels imported (over 20,000 tons) and 57% of the table linen (6,500 tons). Although importers do not readily switch to new suppliers, exporters who can provide goods of consistent, specified quality according to delivery schedules may be able to find openings.

Market trends

Imports of bed linen, table linen and towels into the four major markets reviewed (France, Federal Republic of Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom) increased annually between 1980 and 1988, moving from around 84,000 tons of goods at the beginning of the decade to about 133,000 tons in 1988. This upward trend may well continue to the advantage of developing country exporters. However overall consumption of household textiles has been more or less stable over the last several years. Since 1980, for example, the total market for bed linen in Italy and France has grown slowly, while in the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany it has remained relatively static. Demand is not expected to grow dramatically in any of these product groups, but the share of imports should expand within the total market.

Bed linen: Imports of bed linen into the four major West European markets accelerated during the 1980s. Between 1980 and 1988 total imports of bed linen rose by about 68%, from 38,100 tons to 63,800 tons. Imports of cotton and cotton-rich bed linen increased even faster, expanding by 97% during the same period, to 56,100 tons in 1988.

The share of imports accounted for by developing countries has grown considerably. While in 1980 these countries supplied 30% of the total, eight years later their share had reached 42%. In volume terms, imports from these countries attained a record level of 27,000 tons in 1988. This compares with 16,900 tons imported in 1987 and 11,600 tons in 1980.

Of the four countries surveyed, the Federal Republic of Germany is by far the largest import market for bed linen. In 1988 its total foreign purchases in this category amounted to 28,100 tons, 15% higher than in the previous year and 80% above the 1980 level. While over 98% of these imports were classified as cotton and cotton-rich, it can be assumed that the goods in question were almost entirely of cotton. Developing countries accounted for around 44% of the Federal Republic's imports in 1988, or 12,200 tons. The major suppliers among this group were Pakistan, Turkey and India, which exported 3,935 tons, 3,311 tons and 2,057 tons respectively to the Federal Republic. These three countries combined accounted for about three-quarters of the total imports from developing countries. exports small quantities of bed linen to the Federal Republic, while Indonesia has become a new source, supplying 369 tons to this market in 1988.

Imports of bed linen into both the United Kingdom and France have also expanded over the last several years, although from a lower level. In the United Kingdom, of total imports of 14,300 tons in 1988, approximately 6,900 tons were supplied by developing countries, while in France developing country imports reached 5,100 tons that year out of total imports of 14,400 tons. …

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