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Changing Jeans Sourcing Scene Has These Countries Coming Up Roses

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The sourcing landscape for denim jeans is slowly but certainly shifting, while overall U.S. blue denim apparel imports continue to decline.

Imports of jeans fell 7.43 percent in the first two months of the year compared to the same period in 2020 to a value of $460.25 million, expanding on a 5.36 percent year-over-year falloff in January, according to the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA). Coming off a difficult year and fourth quarter, brands and retailers were still working off some inventory amid wobbly consumer demand.

As the year progressed, production choices seem to be coming into a clearer picture. Of the Top 10 supplier countries, only four posted increased shipments to the United States, OTEXA data showed.

Leading the way was No. 1 supplier Bangladesh, with jeans imports to the U.S. increasing 5.57 percent year to date through February compared to the same time last year for a value of $95.16 million. Imports from denim powerhouse Pakistan were up 11.01 percent to $42.96 million.

The other two suppliers posting gains represent regions that are emerging as sourcing choices for blue jeans. Imports from Nicaragua rose 21.26 percent year to date to $16.79 million, while shipments from Lesotho were up 19.04 percent to $9.23 million.

Nicaragua’s gains were part of a 6.18 percent increase in the period to $19.87 million for the countries of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). CAFTA countries can receive duty-free import status if they meet material content qualifications.

Lesotho’s rise comes along with a 28.63 percent increase to $24.61 million from the Sub-Saharan region, where qualifying countries are part of the African Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade preference program. Other AGOA countries posting gains in the period included Madagascar, up 34.25 percent to $7.69 million; Ethiopia, increasing 66.48 percent to $2.76 million; Kenya, up 48.91 percent to $3.11 million, and Tanzania, jumping 94.92 percent to $1.23 million.

Among the rest of the Top 10 suppliers, jeans imports from No. 2 Mexico, after a small year-over-year gain in January, declined 4.9 percent to $87.47 million. Vietnam and China were able to cut their losses in February after significant year-to-year declines in January. However, blue jeans imports from Vietnam were still down 24.16 percent in the period to $49.49 million and shipments from China fell 11.66 percent to $49.36 million.

Imports from Cambodia, which had showed strength in 2020, declined 12.93 percent year to date through February to $25.38 million, while Egypt’s shipments fell 32.76 percent to $17.14 million and Sri Lanka’s were down 19.93 percent to $8.12 million.

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