Myanmarâ€™s clothing industry is set to grow significantly in the coming years, it is predicted that that there could be up to 1.5 million jobs in the garment industry by 2020 compared with approximately 230,000 in mid-2015, and that garment exports could rise from US$1.5 million in 2014 to as much as US$12 billion in 2020, according to a report in the latest issue of Global Apparel Markets from the business information company Textiles Intelligence.
The first Western brand to source from Myanmar was H&M in 2013 followed by Gap in 2014 and these companies appear to have paved the way for others to follow. Also many countries have granted free trade or preferential trade status to clothing made in Myanmar.
Furthermore, foreign direct investment (FDI) in the garment industry has been growing at an impressive pace in recent years and, following the removal of sanctions, clothing exports from Myanmar shot up by 26.5% in 2013 and by a further 27.4% in 2014.
To plan for expansion, the Myanmar government has published a strategy for the textile and garment industry as part of a document entitled National Export Strategy 2015-2019. In particular, the industry has been advised to move from operating on a cutting, making and packaging (CMP) basis to operating on an fob (free on board) basis; increase volume; improve quality; produce a greater volume of knitted products; and develop its design expertise so that it can expand from operating on an fob basis to one embracing original design. In terms of geographical markets, the aim will be to build further on the countryâ€™s biggest export markets.
The initiatives are being pursued to improve the industryâ€™s international competitiveness and encourage sustainable production as natural fibre production in Myanmar is small and there is no production of man-made fibres. Almost all the fibres used by the textile industry need to be imported. Also, the industry lacks vocational training programmes.
Consequently, the industry will need modern machinery, raw materials, skilled labour, social and environmental certification, energy sources which are reliable, a logistics infrastructure and a financing system which runs smoothly.
The demand from Western retailers is unlikely to increase at a rapid pace as buyers are expected to proceed cautiously.
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