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Jeans Sourcing Turns Increasingly Global Amid Trade Fluctuations

Sourcing of blue denim jeans, once dominated by a few countries, is becoming a more global enterprise.

Powerhouses like Mexico and China continue to lose ground and several Asian countries, as well as regions like Central and South America and Africa are picking up momentum in jeans manufacturing.

Some of this is driven by rising costs in certain countries and some of the shift has come form risk aversion, as companies seek shelter from rising tariffs and general political unease.

The latest report from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA), shows U.S. imports of jeans for the year to date through July fell 2.5% to 21.55 million dozen. Women’s and girls’ jeans imports were up 5.27% in the comparative period to 10.65 million dozen, but men’s and girls’ shipments were down 0.68% to 10.9 million dozen.

The amount of jeans imported from China dropped precipitously, with a 4.47% falloff in women’s and girls’ to 4.1 million dozen–although still giving the country the top supplier spot and a 39 percent market share year to date–while shipments of men’s and boys’ product declined 12.69% to 12.5 million dozen in the period.

The OTEXA report revealed some clear trends in the jeans sourcing game. Asian manufacturing mavens Vietnam, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Pakistan all demonstrated their importance in the field.

Bangladesh was the second largest supplier of women’s and girls’ jeans in the period, with the U.S. importing 10.73% more in the year-to-year period to reach 1.73 million dozen, and shipping 5.05% more men’s and boys’ product to reach 2.28 million dozen. Vietnam shipments for women’s and girls’ rose 23.9% to 957,000 dozen, and imports of men’s and boys’ jeans increased 10.38% to 386,500 dozen.

Pakistan’s shipments of women’s and girls’ jeans increased 27.72% to more than 793,621 dozen, and imports of men’s and boys’ were up 12.61% to 593.194 dozen. Imports of women’s and girls’ jeans from Cambodia rose 28.14% to reach 596,755 dozen, and its shipments of men’s and boys’ product increased 37.19% to 136,234 dozen.

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While Mexico was still the top supplier of men’s and boys blue jeans in the period, its shipments fell 8.16% to 3.82 million dozen, and imports of women’s and girls’ product declined 0.33% to 336,379 dozen. Some companies have shifted production out of Mexico due to risks of losing free-trade status and rising costs in the southern neighbor, although a tentative bilateral trade deals could ease concerns.

Some of the sourcing has shifted to Africa, where countries like Egypt, Lesotho, Madagascar, Kenya and Ethiopia have shown substantial gains from a smaller base. Women’s and girls’ jeans imports from Sub-Saharan African nations increased 69.72% to 252,256 dozen in the period, while shipments of men’s and boys’ product rose 7.87% to 760,183 dozen.

Western Hemisphere counties showing market gains included Nicaragua, Guatemala and Colombia, as overall category imports from the region fell 0.3% to 5,29 million dozen. Turkey, an important jeans supplier with internal and external political and economic problems, saw its shipments of women’s and girls’ jeans increase 23.75% to 87,795 dozen in the period, but imports of men’s and boys’ product fell 14.6% to 41,257 dozen.