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Garment firms shift focus on southern Africa
21
Sep '11
Garment firms in Botswana are shifting their focus to southern African market after China and other Asian countries were allowed to sell to the United States.

The competition to sell to US market has increased enormously after the Asian countries were allowed to sell in the American market, according to Ashwin Singh, Director of Microlith textile factory, one of the remaining garment manufacturing firms in Selebi-Phikwe.

Many garment producing companies in Botswana have closed in recent times due to power outages, escalating fuel prices and the 2008 financial crisis.

US is the main consumer of Botswana's garments, which are made by importing fabrics and other raw materials from Asian countries like China, India and Pakistan. With the US allowing the Asian countries to sell in its market, Botswana's garment firms were actually competing with their suppliers. This made many local companies to go out of the competition.

The production costs of Botswana firms rise due to their dependency on raw material imports. In contrast, the Asian countries source their raw materials locally and hence their production cost is relatively low.

In view of the present situation, Microlith has stopped international exports and is instead focusing on the regional southern African market.

Another problem faced by garment firms in Botswana is the lack of availability of skilled workers. For instance, Microlith currently employs only 400 people, mostly women, compared to its capacity of employing 800 workers, due to unavailability of skilled personnel.

When the company recruits new employees, it imparts them training at considerable expense. The process also consumes time as the trainers have to come from South Africa.

In spite of such difficulties, Microlith is planning to set up three new manufacturing units this year for making school uniforms, including shirts and shorts.

Fibre2fashion News Desk - India

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