U.S. domestic imports of apparel, not knitted or crocheted (HS code 62), are modestly recovering from 2012’s dip. Year to date, through April, apparel imports were up 3.7%, and totaled $12.4 billion. Last year, imports totaled $36.8 billion for a dip of 0.4%, while in 2011 imports totaled $36.9 billion for an increase of 8.0%. 2012 was a mediocre year for apparel imports partly because real disposable personal income per capita experienced sluggish growth.
CHINA LOSING SHARE OF IMPORTS; BANGLADESH, VIETNAM GAINING
China is the largest supplier of apparel (not knitted or crocheted) to the U.S. by dollar value. China sourced 40% of all U.S. apparel imports in 2012, down by 0.6% from 2011. Year to date, through April, China saw its share of imports declined further to 36.8%, despite an increase of 3% of exports to the U.S.
Imports from other low-cost producers such as Bangladesh and Vietnam are growing faster this year, partly as a result of the fast-pace rising production costs in China. Vietnam’s share has grown steadily in recent years, boosted by rapid export growth. Year to date, Vietnamese exports of apparel to the U.S. jumped 17%, and Vietnam’s share of imports increased to 8.4%. Second-ranked Bangladesh also saw its share of imports increased in recent years and it’s currently holding 10.8% of the total U.S. apparel imports trade year to date. Ultra low wages, which have remained flat for years, spurred an $18 billion garment industry. According to some estimates, average monthly pay in 2009 for workers in Dhaka was $47 compared to $235 in Shenzhen China.
Bangladesh’s exports of apparel to the U.S. rose 8% year to date, a good improvement over the 1% dip seen last year. Nevertheless, exports growth will likely be challenged for the rest of the year in the aftermath of the April 25th collapse of Rana Plaza, an eight-story building in Savar, Bangladesh, killing over 1,000 garment workers. Some apparel retailers have signed a safety pact agreement with the intention of raising payment to suppliers so that factory owners undertake major safety upgrades. Furthermore, the Bangladeshi government has agreed to International Labour Organization proposals that include worker protection rights and liberty to form unions. How will new safety measures and regulations impact container apparel imports from Bangladesh going forward?
WILL APPAREL IMPORTS FROM BANGLADESH BE ADVERSELY IMPACTED BY THE RANA PLAZA DISASTER?
U.S. container imports of apparel from Bangladesh were up 7.6% year to date through May, and totaled 34,544 TEUs. By extrapolating the data we can determine the expectation of apparel import volumes from Bangladesh over the next 6 months as the graph shows. This is important because we can estimate the impact of the Rana Plaza disaster and new safety measures and regulations over future container imports of apparel from Bangladesh. For June, apparel imports from this country are expected to grow by 7.4% year over year.
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