fabric makers in China are taking a range of
measures to remain competitive amid an uncertain
export environment and rising material costs.
Early this year, there was a decline in orders
from garment-exporting countries in Asia that were
hit by quota elimination.
In contrast, knitted fabric suppliers enjoyed
healthy domestic sales as demand from local apparel
companies increased significantly.
However, safeguards imposed by the US and the EU
are now limiting exports of some China-made knitted
apparel categories to these markets.
For this reason, knitted fabric makers in China
are again looking at overseas markets to boost
sales. But with a large number of suppliers
competing to ship fabric to garmentexporting
countries, many companies are now eyeing the more
lucrative EU market.
While the US is also an option for suppliers, a
looming safeguard on China-made knitted fabric has
pushed more companies to focus on the EU instead.
Low prices are still the major advantage of
China-made knits. To complement the industry's
attractive prices, makers are improving the quality
of their low-end and midrange products through
equipment upgrades. Many companies are purchasing
new equipment that operates at maximum efficiency
but consumes less energy and occupies less floor
High-speed tricot machines from Karl Mayer and
universal tricot machines from LIBA are popular
purchases. These machines are able to generate
either larger volumes or wider varieties of fabric.
Systems that produce more designs save on cost
and factory space, and companies would not need to
buy a separate machine for each particular type of
Larger makers are also boosting R&D capability to
offer more models that cater to the high end. Many
new releases from these companies are made of
environment-friendly but high-performance fiber such
as modal, Tencel, bamboo, soybean and Ingeo. These
types of fiber are all derived from renewable
Functional knitted fabric is also becoming a
staple at most companies, regardless of their size
or business type.
Most suppliers increased prices by up to 10
percent in 2005, due mainly to the rising cost of
synthetic yarn. Export prices are expected to rise
further in coming months as the cost of synthetic
materials continues to rise.
China is the world's largest producer of knitted
fabric, exporting close to 800 million kilograms in
2004. Exports topped US$3 billion, accounting for
roughly one-third of global sales.
The country is home to about 2,700 suppliers
engaged in the manufacture and export of knitted
fabric. Most makers are small or midsize, with 95
percent having less than 500 employees each.
About one-third of China's suppliers have direct
export capability, and the rest ship products
through trading companies.
Eighty percent of the suppliers are locally owned
companies, some of which used to be state-owned
enterprises. Only about 3 percent of these remain
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