Bleak year for textile, clothing and footwear exports

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Workers at a garment factory in Suva. Picture: FT FILE

The Textile, Clothing, and Footwear (TCF) industry is projecting a 25 per cent drop in exports this year as cost of doing business in Fiji continues to increase.

TCF council president and Intimate Apparels Pte Ltd director Inbamalar Wanarajan said the increasing cost incurred by the TCF industry, loss of skilled workers to other industries and to the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme (PALMS) are putting a lot of pressure on the industry.

“Export is expected to decline by 25 per cent from 2023 to 2024 due to continuous increased cost of conducting business. Increased minimum wages and FNPF (Fiji National Provident Fund) contribution, replacing migrant workers by training new comers, and the recently imposed three per cent duty on raw material further challenge the situation,” Ms Wanarajan told The Fiji Times.

“This cost cannot always be passed to the customers, risking losing them and ultimately finding difficulties in positioning Fiji’s TCF sector in the international market.”

The TCF industry, once the poster child of Fiji’s tax free policies in the 1990s, had employed more than 20,000 people, most of them women, and was exporting close to $350million worth of products to Australia, New Zealand, US and Europe during its peak in 2000.

The industry began declining in 2005 after the expiry of the tax-free holidays and the trend continues today.

“Employment declined from 7000 workers to less than 4000 workers. Council membership too declined,” Ms Wanarajan said.

“Less productivity and poor efficiency further add up to the current situation. Efficiency in garment industry is poor due to lack of training while absenteeism is continuing.”

On the increased minimum wage rate, Ms Wanarajan said any increases should not lead to further reduction in employment and decline in exports.

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