textile exports from China surged dramatically in
the first half of 2005 due in part to the removal of
quotas on certain products in January. However,
suppliers are looking at the rest of the year with
cautious optimism as limits on exports to the US and
the EU could hamper growth rates considerably.
While the EU lifted quotas on all home textiles
in 1998, the US removed the caps on towels, drapery
and table linen in 2002 and those on bed linen and
quilts in 2005.
According to China customs statistics, total home
textile exports from the country rose by a modest 24
percent in 2004. However, shipments in the first
five months of 2005 soared nearly 40 percent to
reach US$2.2 billion from a year ago. But even more
remarkable export growth is evident in certain
product categories to some of the country's key
Towel exports to the US in January to May 2005
reached US$119 million, a massive year-on-year
increase of 105 percent. Shipments of other product
lines to the US also registered impressive growth
bedding increased by 77.6 percent to US$220
million, while drapery exports were at US$230
million, growing 25.7 percent.
Reacting to the jump in drapery shipments, home
textile associations in the US have petitioned to
curtail imports of China-made curtains. If quotas
are reinstated, limits could be set sometime the
last quarter of this year.
In view of the steep rise in bedding exports to
the US, similar action on the product line cannot be
In fact, bed and table linen have been the
products of contention in the EU. In January to May
2005, imports of China made bed linen to the EU
jumped 154.7 percent in volume and 57.6 percent in
value from a year ago. In response, China agreed to
limit shipments of table and bed linen to 5,521 and
6,451 tons, respectively. These limits, which took
effect in June, are filling up.
However, embargoes on shipments to the EU will
not have a major impact on the industry as the
region accounts for only 14 percent of total home
Restrictions on US exports, on the other hand,
could have more far-reaching consequences, since it
is the top market for China-made home textiles. The
US absorbed US$1.2 billion, or 25 percent, total
export sales in 2004.
In the shadow of these trade disputes, many China
suppliers have already started looking for
alternative solutions. While some are increasing
sales to the domestic market, others are boosting
exports to Asia, particularly Japan. The country is
China's second-largest destination for home
textiles, absorbing US$1.1 billion worth of exports
The home textiles industry in China is composed of
more than 3,000 small, midsize and large suppliers
producing bedding, drapery and towels.
Irrespective of size, the majority of companies
make bedding products, with most offering both
quilts and bed linen and some focusing on one or the
Suppliers that manufacture quilts can also
produce bed linen, but those specializing in bed
linen do not necessarily offer quilts. This is
because quilt production requires specialized
machines for cleaning, stuffing and quilting. Makers
producing quilts usually also offer similar products
such as pillows and cushions.
Very few companies focus on drapery, and even
fewer specialize in table linen. Most suppliers have
one or both of these product categories as their
secondary lines and bedding as their primary line.
Makers offering towels usually specialize in the
line, but some large companies offering multiple
types of home textiles have separate factories
dedicated to the product. The few small and midsize
companies that offer towels as their secondary line
usually subcontract production or dedicate a small
portion of their factories to it. However, most of
these makers might not be able to provide the
expertise that towel specialists can offer.
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