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  SARS virus hits textile exports
(DAI YAN,China Daily staff)

The latest textile export statistics echo a forecast made by industrial experts that the sector would be severely affected by the SARS outbreak.

The numbers from the China Textile Industry Association show that textile and apparel exports in May dropped by 3.53 per cent to US$6.05 billion, compared with April.

It is the first negative growth rate this year.

Sun Huaibin, a director from the industry group, said May and June suffered the most from the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) crisis.

"The sliding in May exports is slim and I expect the slowdown in June to be more apparent," the official said.

Zero growth is even forecast by many industrial experts for the second quarter, in sharp contrast with the surge observed in the first three months of the year.

Exports in the first quarter went up by 24.83 per cent to US$15.09 billion.

For the whole of 2003, exports were officially forecast to rise just 3 per cent to US$62 billion, which was considered to be conservative.

The exports of apparel in May totalled US$3.66 billion, 4.23 per cent lower than April. And the exports of textiles slipped by 2.43 per cent to US$2.39 billion.

In contrast, the imports of textiles and apparel both climbed up by 3 per cent in May compared with April, reaching US$1.23 billion and US$119 million respectively.

The total exports of textiles and apparel in the first five months had a positive year-on-year growth of 28.19 per cent to US$27.4 billion. Imports grew by 11.77 per cent to US$5.95 billion.

Sun said textiles were particularly badly hit because face-to-face contact is required to finalize most orders.

Buyers should have been in China in April, ordering apparel for the autumn and holiday seasons, but most of them called off their trips.

Many overseas orders are shifting to rising competitors including Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Turkey and Cambodia.

Although health authorities including the World Health Organization denied that SARS could be transmitted through contact with textiles or clothing, many countries delayed China's textile exports at their ports.

The exports to Japan were mostly affected in May because of the blocks. The number slumped by 26 per cent compared with April, totalling US$983 million.

Exports to the US and European Union in May continued to surge by 7.67 per cent and 19.01 per cent, compared with April.

A majority of provinces and municipalities saw their textile and apparel exports slide in May. Among them, the drops in Beijing Municipality and Hebei, Fujian, Heilongjiang and Hainan provinces exceeded 10 per cent.

However, South China's Guangdong Province, the first place found with SARS in China, achieved a positive growth rate of 7.8 per cent.

"It is encouraging. It indicates that other provinces which had SARS after Guangdong can follow its suit and shrug off the impact," Sun said.

He said such a slowdown will be temporary as Chinese textiles are good in quality and competitive in price.

(HK Edition 07/12/2003 page7)


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