How does China's Guangdong cope with trade challenges facing its clothing industry?
By Cao Chufeng
Guangdong Province in south China is one of the country's biggest clothing manufacturers, with the revenue of clothing industry accounting for about a fifth of the national total in 2021.
Brother Plush, based in Dongguan City, started manufacturing clothes in 2014 and exports most of its products. However, COVID-induced disruptions in the supply chain have shrunk its customer base.
"One of the reasons is that my foreign clients don't actually make much money anymore," the owner of Brother Plush said. "The clothing industry itself is not highly profitable. Foreign businesses mainly depend on the exchange rate difference to make money. But now the logistics costs are too high. After the pandemic, maritime shipping prices have risen a lot, and so has air freight, so they can't really make money."
Foreign trade orders and the workforce have halved compared to pre-pandemic levels, he said, adding that they have only 50 employees now.
Brother Plush isn't the only one suffering. The Guangdong Association of Garments and Garment Article Industry said spring is the peak season for clothing and textile exports, but this hasn't happened this year due to fresh coronavirus outbreaks in the province.
Guangdong's exports of clothing and accessories in the first quarter of 2022 reached around $6.3 billion, down 2.3 percent from a year earlier.
The central and local governments and business associations have come up with a slew of policies and measures to ensure international trade during the pandemic within this sector.
"Our association and other organizations have jointly launched efforts such as the Digital Collaborative Innovation Center, and Guangdong Fashion Week, which provide opportunities for business collaboration and a platform for display," Guan Yong, vice president of Guangdong Association of Garment and Garment Article Industry, told CGTN.
Meanwhile, the Guangdong provincial government has invested more than 3 billion yuan ($44 million) to stabilize the fundamentals of the local economy, he said.
Guan also said companies need to ensure the quality of their products and leverage digital marketing to enhance business with foreign clients during the pandemic.
He voiced confidence in Guangdong's clothing industry in the long run, saying the implementation of the national "dual circulation" strategy will create more international opportunities.
Driven by policies of the Chinese government to stabilize the economy, boost consumption and support enterprises, the economic benefits of China's apparel industry have continued to improve, China National Garment Association said on Friday.
China's Garment industry enjoys a sound modern industrial chain foundation and super-large market advantages, it said, adding it is necessary to face up to difficulties while enhancing core competitiveness to ensure the industry recovers as soon as possible.