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Knitwear sector, a mainstay in textile industry

Textile is the most important manufacturing sector of Pakistan and has the longest production chain, with inherent potential for value addition at each stage of processing, from cotton to ginning, spinning, fabric, dyeing and finishing, made-ups, and garments. This sector contributes nearly one-fourth of industrial value-added and employs about 40 percent of the industrial labor force. Barring seasonal and cyclical fluctuations, textiles products have maintained an average share of about 60 percent in national exports.

Pakistan’s exports of knitwear and other knitted garments and hosiery always play the leading role in exports growth, as the industry continued to show its flexibility to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This textile sub-sector earned a huge amount of foreign exchange. According to Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PHMA), the knitwear garment exports of Pakistan had surged 36.57% in the fiscal year 2020-21. Total exports of the country rose from US$21.4 billion in FY20 to US$25.3 billion in the previous fiscal year and the share of textile in the overall exports came in at 60.86%.

“Hosiery products have kept a major share of 15% in the textile group and this segment has the potential to contribute 25% to the total textile exports of the country,” PHMA said.

According to Association, the share of knitwear garments in total exports would rise to 20% in the fiscal year 2021-22. Had the government keenly considered proposals of the knitwear sector and addressed all problems and issues of businessmen, the contribution of knitwear garments to the total exports would have been much higher in the fiscal year 2020-21.

The export value of hosiery products rose from US$ 2.8 billion in FY20 to US$ 3.8 billion in FY21. “Knitwear exports recorded an increase of 36.6% despite the adverse impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” they said. “The segment also emerged as the highest foreign exchange earner, of US$ 3.81 billion, in the previous fiscal year.”

The foreign exchange earned by the sector was 25.83% higher than the export revenue earned from exports of readymade or woven garments and 37.68% more than the receipts for bedwear exports. If the export of knitted bed sheets and fabric were included, the total foreign exchange earned by the knitwear sector would soar to US$ 4.5 billion, accounting for 29.2% of the entire textile group and 17.91% of the total exports.

The exporters of the hosiery sector must be appreciated for achieving the milestone despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. Consequently, the government should also focus on the knitwear sector as it had the potential to enhance exports manifold.

The Association also pointed out that major exports of Bangladesh included knitwear products as well and they covered 43.66% of total exports of that country. Since the annual global demand for knitwear stood at US$ 208 billion but Pakistan’s share in the global knitwear exports stood at a meager 1.83%. Pakistan had the resources to enhance hosiery exports within a short time frame.

Textile Made-Up Sector 

Being value-added segment of the textile industry made-up sector comprises different subgroups namely towels, tents & canvas, cotton bags, bed-wear, hosiery, knitwear and readymade garments including fashion apparel. Export performance of made-up sector during the period July-March FY2021 is presented in the table below.

Hosiery Industry 

The industry sustains directly livelihood of 210,000 skilled workers and 490,000 unskilled workers. Another 350,000 people benefit from allied cottage industries. Thus, the industry provides, directly and indirectly, sustenance to well over a million people. Knitwear exports consist of knitted and processed fabrics knitted garments; knitted bed sheets, socks, etc. The export performance of knitwear during the period under review is given in the table below.

 

Today knitwear is also synonymous with trendy fashionable wear for casual sportswear as well as smart casual workwear. Pakistan knitwear (hosiery) industry is playing a vital role in the value addition of the textile sector. This sector has export potential, despite remaining under pressure from its competitors, mainly Bangladesh, India, and the Far Eastern nations.

The knitwear (hosiery) sector, being the largest foreign exchange earner as well the largest contributor in the textile and total export of the country, demands deserving attention of the government to diversify knitwear products to bring more innovations and incentives to boost its exports.

Pakistan is the fourth largest cotton producer in the world and is an important player in the global textile market. Its knitwear industry is the highest value-added textile sector in the country and is distinguished by the high quality of raw material and competitive value of the end product.

 

Knitwear exports witness a 35.21% increase 

Knitwear exports during the first six months of the fiscal year of 2021-22 grew by 35.21 % as compared to exports of the commodity during the corresponding period of last year. During the period from July-Dec 2021, Knitwear worth US$ 2,500,461 was exported, as compared to exports of US$ 1,849,596 during the same period of last year.

According to the data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the exports of Ready-made garments increased by 22.93 %, of US$ 1,831,856 as compared to the exports of US$ 1,490,157 of the same period of last year.

Meanwhile, Bed wear exports also increased by 19.04% as the exports during the current fiscal year were recorded worth US$ 1,659,646 as compared to the exports during the same period of last year which recorded US$1,394,182. During this period, Towels exports increased by 17.54 %, worth US$ 523,868 in the current fiscal year, as compared to the exports valuing US$ 445,697 of the same period of last year.

The textile sector has the highest weight of 20.91 in the Quantum Index of Manufacturing (QIM) thus having a significant impact on the overall performance of LSM. Textile production has increased by 5.90 percent during July-March FY2021 against a 2.58 percent decline in the same period last year. Major jump originated from woolen segment production that may be associated with the projections of early onset of the winter season by international agencies. Likewise, the pandemic has proved as a blessing in disguise for garments manufacturers as there is a flurry of export orders from European and American markets for Pakistan’s garment sector due to the severe impact of COVID-19 on our regional countries. (PES, 2020-21)

 

The main items of export in knitwear from Pakistan are elegant men’s T-shirts, fancy ladies’ T-shirts with exquisite embroidery and sequined work, nightshirts for ladies and men’s pajama sets, sportswear, and jogging suit, trousers, bed sheets knitted, and socks.

Techniques of designing, printing, embroidery, and dyeing of the fabric have become well developed over the years. China, India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Korea, Bangladesh, Jordan, and Kenya are major competitors in the knitwear industry. Pakistan’s textile hub Faisalabad is now witnessing a financial boom as the city is receiving a large number of export orders.

Future Prospects 

Pakistan’s knitwear industry is almost totally export-oriented however domestic use of garments such as vests and underwear are common in all urban groups. The organized sector exports almost all its products with a very little percentage of local consumption. Often these are brought into the local market because they have either been rejected quality controllers of the firm for which they are manufacturing or because orders have been canceled or due to over-production. The products made in Pakistan include T-shirts, jogging suits, jerseys, sports shirts, children’s wear, gloves, tracksuits, sweaters, socks, etc.

References: 

  •  Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.
  •  Pakistan Economic Survey- 2020-21.
  •  Pakistan Knitwear & Sweater Exporters Association (PAKSEA).
  •  Trade Development Authority of Pakistan.

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