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FIJI'S garment sector is always looking for new markets but it faces severe competition from low cost Asian manufacturers, says Kaushik Kumar, president of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Council of Fiji. more…

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by April 19, 2016 General

FIJI’S garment sector is always looking for new markets but it faces severe competition from low cost Asian manufacturers, says Kaushik Kumar, president of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Council of Fiji.

Mr Kumar, who is also the managing director of United Apparel (Fiji) Ltd, said low cost Asian manufacturers had the advantage of duty-free access of garments into the EU and US because of their least developed country (LDC) status.

Mr Kumar said garment manufacturers in Fiji had some advantages at the moment.

“Australia continues to be our largest market followed by New Zealand and a few factories are having success in the Melanesian Spearhead Group market,” he said.

With twice weekly direct flights to Singapore from Nadi International Airport by Fiji Airways, there is scope for trade opportunities between the countries.

However, in terms of garment export to Singapore, Mr Kumar said, the TCF had never really looked at the city state as a potential market for the garment sector.

“It will be difficult to say whether or not we actually have any opportunities there. Singapore is located very close to the major garment manufacturing countries like, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, India to name a few. Most of these are low cost suppliers and we find it very difficult to compete with them on price.

“All these countries have raw materials manufactured locally or have easy access to raw material stocks which means they can provide relatively quick deliveries.”

He said having to airfreight from Fiji to Singapore would come at a cost.

“Our cost structure is already high and this just adds to it. Having said that, there could be niche opportunities in higher value and fashion garment products but this will need to be explored.

“We also do not know much about Singapore’s import tariffs on clothing products and if Fiji has any special agreements that provide for better access for our products.”

However, Mr Kumar said the industry was always looking for new markets and opportunities and if the TCF had any buyer in Singapore interested to import apparel products from Fiji, they would be more than happy to assist.

Meanwhile, Mr Kumar said the industry started off quite well but unfortunately since Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston, things had been generally slow in the industry, more so because of human resource issues.

“We all know that a number of people have had homes and property damaged and they have not been coming to work.

“Western-based factories have faced a high level of absenteeism and in our industry it is difficult to operate an assembly line without the required number of staff.”

Mr Kumar said some of his colleagues in the Western Division suffered damage to property and had been facing difficulties in getting their operations back on track.

“The power disruptions have affected our West-based colleagues. For some reason, factories in Suva are also reporting a very high level of absenteeism since the cyclone, and then we have also had the pink eye virus and the FNPF payout which many people took undue advantage of.

Mr Kumar said it was difficult to figure out why employees were not coming to work, adding “I am sure they need an income to support them and their families”.

Mr Kumar said it was everyone’s responsibility to help get the country back to full normalcy.

“A number of factories are running behind with deliveries but all factories hope to catch up in the next few weeks. Our clients have been sympathetic and supportive during this difficult period.”

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