There has been a constant talk of Chinese textiles and apparels getting costlier for a number of reasons and that this has affected the Chinese exports in a number of countries, including the US. But this stands rebutted, thanks to the data just released by the Department of Commerce Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) that shows that the volume of textile and apparel imports into the US edged up 0.7% to $54.0bn square metre equivalents (SME) in 2012. Within this, China's share rose to 47.4% of the total, up from 46.9% a year earlier. The country also retains a lead that sees it accounting for more than seven times the volume of imports from its closest rival India.


In terms of apparel, US imports during 2012 slipped 0.8% to 23.7bn SME, yet China retained its lead with a 1.5% rise in volumes to 9.88bn SME accounting for a 41.7% share of the total. The numbers show China's share of the US apparel market has risen from 40.8% in 2011.


In terms of value, the data again seems to suggest China has managed to offset fears about rising prices, with average US apparel imports from the country coming in at 3.8% less per square metre than a year earlier. This compares with the price paid by US buyers for all imports in 2012, which fell just 0.3% on the year before.


With China continuing to come out on top, the Department of Commerce figures also highlight other winners and losers in the world's apparel supply countries. A clear winner is Vietnam, whose imports rose 7.3% in 2012 to 2.15bn SME.


But losers include India (-7.2% to 835m SME), Honduras (-5.4% to 1.12bn SME), Mexico (-5.2% to 897m SME), Indonesia (-3.4% to 1.26bn SME), Pakistan (-7.1% to 582m SME), and Philippines (-6.2% to 364m SME). Even greater double-digit declines were recorded by Thailand (-14.3% to 299m SME) and Guatemala (-10.7% to 297m SME).


Textile imports during the year edged up 1.8% to 30.4bn SME, with China again leading the list of supply countries, growing the volume of its shipments to the US by 2.1% to 15.76bn SME.


Gains were also seen by India (+8.1% to 2.6bn SME), Pakistan (+0.35 to 1.86bn SME), Taiwan (+7.8% to 690m SME), Turkey (+7.7% to 558m SME0, and Indonesia (+1.6% to 472m SME). But textile imports for the year declined from Mexico (-5.1% to 1.52bn SME), South Korea (-5.7% to 1.28bn SME), Canada (-7.5% to 1.11bn SME), and Vietnam (-9.7% to 1.02bn SME).


In terms of yarn and fabric imports, there were some regional gains, albeit from a very small base. CBI partners (+10.5% to 21m SME) and DR-CAFTA partners (+10.5% to 21m SME) both saw double-digit gains in yarn shipments. But so did the ASEAN group (+1.7% to 406m SME), and South Asia (+5.9% to 265m SME). And even though China's yarn shipments slipped 7% to 524m SME, this is still one and half times higher than its nearest rivals Mexico (+5.7% to 348m SME) and South Korea (+26.1% to 310m SME).


And China continues to dominate when it comes to fabric supply, with an 11.1% rise in US imports last year to 3.23bn SME taking it to more than three times the volume supplied by South Korea (+0.8% to 911m SME), and India (-1.0% to 774m SME).


This article was originally published in the Stitch Times magazine, April, 2013 issue.