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Jeans Imports Point to Big Nearshoring Wins

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While most jeans suppliers to U.S. retailers and brands have seen a pickup in imports this year, a pattern developed that leans toward Western Hemisphere production, along with a few key Asian manufacturing hubs, and away from some established Asian nations and what had been thought to be emerging African nations.

After meandering during uncertain negotiations for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), Mexico is back as the No. 2 production spot for U.S. imports of blue denim apparel, according to new data released Tuesday by the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA). Imports from Mexico jumped 50.58 percent in the first eight months of the year compared to the same time in 2020 to a value of $413.27 million and a 18.54 percent year-end market share, signaling what could become a longer-term nearshoring trend.

Also in the Top 10 of U.S. suppliers from the region was Nicaragua, with year-to-date shipments growing 37.25 percent to $76.45 million, while neighboring Guatemala saw its shipments rise 23.41 percent to $14.69 million and Colombia’s increased 17.29 percent in the period to $18.61 million. Overall, imports from the Western Hemisphere rose 46.54 percent year to date to $528.24 million and a year-end market share of 15.42 percent.

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Asian powerhouses posting strong numbers included No. 1 supplier Bangladesh, with imports up 30.87 percent to $436.53 million in the period and a 20.26 percent year-end marketshare. At the same time, shipments from Pakistan grew 62.88 percent to $232.598 million, imports from Cambodia rose 13.66 percent to $101.19 million, Sri Lanka’s gained 39.77 percent to $43,42 million and Turkey’s jumped 75.98 percent to $42.96 million.

Other Top 10 suppliers seeing more dubious results included No. 3 supplier Vietnam, still struggling from Covid-related factory closures, with just a 3.57 percent year-to-date increase to $238.41 million. For the year ended Aug. 31, imports from Vietnam were flat at $376.4 million.

China, with tariffs still in place against its imports to the U.S. on a range of products, saw a 12.93 percent increase year to date through August to $232.57 million. For the year ending Aug. 3, however, the country’s shipments of jeans to the U.S. fell 6.68 percent to $358.57 million and a 10.94 percent market share.

Similarly, denim apparel imports from Egypt increased 21.64 percent in the eight-month period to $87.51 million, but declined 6.11 percent to $121.44 million for the year through August.

Also of note was a dip in what had been seen as the fertile ground of African production, as Lesotho, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania all saw their shipments decline in the first eight months of 2021. However, lifted by an increase of 47.66 percent to $30.34 million from Madagascar and other smaller gains, imports from Sub-Saharan Africa overall rose 6.62 percent in the period to $94.3 million.

All this came as blue denim apparel imports–97 percent of which are jeans–increased 28.13 percent year to date through August to $2.17 billion, as the industry brought in fresh merchandise for fourth-quarter selling.