Turkey has been beset with problems for a while. But since the referendum of 2016, the country's economy has been stabilising. Turkey's textiles and apparel industry, which exports mostly to the European Union, has shown remarkable resilience in times of turmoil, reports Jozef De Coster from the ground.

The Istanbul Yarn Fair considers itself the world's second top yarn fair after Pitti Filati of Florence. In yarns, Turkey is number one in Europe and among the top three in the world. This year, the fair was all the more interesting because it offered an opportunity to get comments from exhibitors and visitors about how and to what degree the Turkish textiles and apparel industry has been affected by the lingering problems and unrest in the Middle East, the failed coup of July 15, 2016, the spate of terrorist attacks in Turkey, and the use of cheap Syrian workforce in Turkish factories.

The Turkish trade fair organiser Tuyap, which in February put the Istanbul Yarn Fair on the agenda for the 14th time, along with the small fair Knitting Tech, was happy with the results. The 215 exhibiting companies attracted 8,755 visitors, including 1,955 foreigners. Some exhibitors felt that they saw less foreign visitors at their stands, and that business was slower than in the previous editions. However, the industry associations and representatives of leading companies argued that taking into account the 2016 turmoil in Turkey and the region and the reluctance of many foreign buyers to book a flight to Istanbul, the yarn fair was indeed a success. They now see several reasons why 2017 should be a better year for the Turkish textiles sector than 2016.

3.jpgThere's hope that international negotiations may end the war in Syria. Russian buyers are returning to Turkey, and exports to markets like Iran, the US, Algeria, Israel, Poland and Bulgaria are increasing. A new free trade agreement (FTA) with Pakistan is under negotiation, while a group of textile investors are working towards a huge viscose production investment. Turkey's textile machinery is becoming stronger (exports increased from $326 million in 2013 to $502 million in 2016, but imports stood still at $1,224 million in 2016). The Turkish lira depreciation is making exports easier, and after the constitutional referendum of April 16, 2017 on stronger presidency sought by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, long-term decision making will be simpler for both domestic and foreign investors. At the start of 2017, the domestic textiles and garment market was developing well.

Foreign professionals who are interested in the Turkish market (81 million inhabitants) and want to get a hang of what Turkish consumers buy, should not only windowshop along the famous Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul, but also visit two textile centres: Merter district for clothing, and the showrooms of the Tekstilkent and Gyimkent sales centres which together occupy 600,000 sq m. Koray Yurteri, director of the Tekstilkent Association, which has around 4,000 members mainly selling home textiles in Turkey, expects that the next special sales days from April 22 to 30 will be a success. He also believes that after the 2016 referendum the Turkish market will show accelerated growth.