Textiles: Local manufacturers also battling Far East, Mauritius

2008-12-04 00:00

THE envisaged end to the two-year quota on Chinese clothing and textile imports will not have a major impact on embattled manufacturers in KwaZulu-Natal because they have had to fight off new competitors in the Far East and Mauritius in any case.

This is the view of a local industry analyst, Dr Justin Barnes, who told The Witness yesterday that many KZN-based clothing and textile manufacturers are simply not operating at a world-class level.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said on Wednesday that it is unlikely to extend the quota, which expires at the end of this month.

The Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu) is in favour of an extension of the quota.

Barnes noted that there are major gaps between the best performing local companies and average performing companies, particularly with regard to inventory holding, customer returns, internal rejects, delivery reliability and absenteeism.

He argued that KZN firms need to enhance their manufacturing capabilities by “upgrading” their people, materials, machinery and manufacturing operations (by reducing lead times, for instance).

He urged firms to respond to the needs of retailers by focusing on “just-in-time” processes.

Speaking at the annual KZN Clothing and Textile Cluster (KZN CTC) dinner in Durban recently, Barnes added that local companies that rise to the competitiveness challenge are poised to benefit from the domestic market’s shift to fast fashion, the depreciation of the rand and the preferential procurement and enterprise development objectives of South African retailers.

He said the introduction of the Customised Sector Programme (CSP) will also assist the sector, which has shed thousands of jobs in recent years under the impact of cheap imports from the East.

Barnes, who is also the chairman of B & M Analysts, said that the CSP will focus on three core elements.

• It is expected that capital investment support will be given to firms through the DTI’s Enterprise Investment Programme and the Industrial Development Corporation’s preferential loans regime.

• The combating of illegal and under-invoiced goods entering South Africa will be targeted.

• Competitiveness upgrading support will be given to companies.

However, Sactwu argued that without import quotas “thousands of jobs will be lost before the competitiveness plan has any effect”.

The supply chain manager at Mr Price, Andy Thorvaldsen, said retailers are focusing on “competitive pricing and quick turnaround times”.

He added that local manufacturers need to concentrate on price competitiveness while producing high-quality, fashionable clothing to compete with international manufacturers.

kavith@witness.co.za

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