Towels & Cleaning Cloth Industry in Pakistan

Textile made-ups are one of the most valuable and important international trading commodities. In 1999 the international textile made-ups trade value was above US$ 11 billion which can be divided into six major categories i.e. towel & cleaning cloths, bed wear & bed linen, blankets, curtains and furnishings, canvas products and table linen. Major exporters of textile made-ups include China, Pakistan, Turkey and Portugal exporting nearly 47% of the total international market of textile made-ups. Compared to previous years, the textile made-ups sector has had a slow growth rate of 3% for the last five years and 1999 was the worst year for textile made-ups products (3% decline in international exports) which is the only year with negative growth in last five years.

Pakistan being the second largest exporter of textile made-ups has increased its share in the international market from 6.6% to 10.1% in previous five years by earning a foreign exchange of US$ 1.18 billion in 1999 and an average growth of 15% per year. According to Federal Bureau of Statistics data, Pakistan exports for the year 2000-01 were about US$ 1.3 billion.

Global Trade of Towels

The towel is an important product used in everyday life. In made ups, the towels sub-sector is the largest in terms of production and exports and shared 32.9% of total textile made-ups market in 1999. Its share has declined from 33.2% as a sub category but has grown by 3% per year if total exports are analyzed for the years 1995-99. 1999 was the worst year for towels and cleaning cloths as the market declined considerably by 9%.

Looking at the major products of towels, more than half of the total exports are accounted by just one category which is reported as SITC 65847 and named ‘Other Linen of Cotton’. This includes cotton towels made on mill and on hand looms, toilet and kitchen linen of cotton & man made fibers etc. In 1999, total trade under this category was $2.28 billion and it accounted for 59% of the total global exports of towels.

China is the main exporter of towels and cleaning cloth as a whole and exported 23.79% of the towels market in 1999. Next was Pakistan which had 9.76% of the export share and then Portugal, capturing 6.92% of towel and cleaning cloth market.

U.S.A. has been the top importer of towels and cleaning cloth at least for the last five years and shared 24 % of total imports valued at US$ 920 million in 1999. USA import value increased by 14.28% in last five years. Japan was second with nearly 9.64% share of world imports of towels and cleaning cloths in 1999.

Towels & Cleaning Cloth Industry of Pakistan

In 1999 towels & cleaning cloths accounted for $374.5 million in foreign exchange earnings, which was nearly 31.5% of total textile made-ups exports of Pakistan. The share has declined from 36% that shows that Pakistan exports of textile made-ups as a whole has increased by much more than exports of towels & cleaning cloths. In Pakistan, the towel & cleaning cloths market has increased by an annual average of 12% in last five years, with a negative growth rate in 1997 of 5%. Looking at the international perspective, Pakistan accounted for 9.76 % of the total towel market in 1999, which has increased from 7.11% in 1995.

For international comparisons the data used is for the year 1999. However, data is also available for Pakistan for the year 2000-2001, which shows that there has been an increase in exports from $374 million in 1999 to nearly $420 million in 2000-01 – by more than 12% in last two years. Some of the leading importers from Pakistan include U.S.A., which imported 60.4% of Pakistan’s towels and cleaning cloths, UK, which imported nearly 5.30% and Germany, which accounted for 4.55% of the Pakistan exports of towels and cleaning cloths in 1999.

Looking at the break-up of Pakistani towel exports, it was found that more than half of the total value exported was accounted for by just one category which is ‘Other Linen of Cotton’ i.e. 54% of the total towels and cleaning cloths exports. This is in line with the world trend since this category is the largest category in the global exports with 60% share.

Pakistan has a strong presence in international towels market and is second only to China. This strong presence can be used to move into next tiers of towel market. Although the international perception of Pakistan is that of a low quality producer, efforts for product diversification can be started in the markets where the perception of Pakistani products is better. Thus efforts should be started to move into higher end of the markets. Such an area of high value added products is represented by the towels manufactured from dyed yarn which fetch better prices compared to the piece-dyed towels. The towel industry should concentrate towards this segment of the market. Current facilities of yarn dyeing are limited in Pakistan and investment is required in this area.

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