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American Appetite for Denim Drives Import Growth

As we settle into the new year, our Sourcing Summit Companion Report looks ahead at ways to optimize processes and performance.

Despite Omicron throwing a wrench into consumers’ social plans, a renewed appetite for denim and the new silhouettes dominating the industry seem to have propelled recent growth in jeans imports.

U.S. jeans imports jumped 29.57 percent to a value of $3.32 billion year to date in November compared to a year earlier–outpacing the prior month’s 28.07 percent rise–with a diverse range of supplier nations posting substantial increases, according to new data from the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA).

Imports from No. 1 blue denim apparel producer Bangladesh rose 34.06 percent in the 11-month period to $699.9 million, while second-place Mexico saw a 41.67 percent increase to $424.74 million, OTEXA reported.

Major gains from other Top 10 suppliers included Pakistan’s 56.68 percent rise to $356.92 million, Egypt’s 63.93 percent increase to $158.81 million, Nicaragua’s 30.78 percent hike to $116.52 million, Sri Lanka’s 43.45 percent jump to $65.11 million and Turkey’s 61.54 percent surge to $62.37 million.

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Key producers with more modest increase were Vietnam, with denim apparel imports up a year-to-date 6.51 percent to $364.34 million; China, with a 16.53 percent gain in the period to $355.22 million, and Cambodia, up 19.05 percent to $155.68 million.

Second tier suppliers with notable increases in the first 11 months of 2021 compared to a year earlier included Madagascar, India, Colombia, Macau, Guatemala, Italy and Japan. Nations with declines or minimal increases in the period were Lesotho, Indonesia, Jordan, Ethiopia and Tanzania.

Ethiopia, once a nascent producer with lots of potential, was among three countries that also included Guinea and Mali that had their designations as beneficiary sub-Saharan African countries under the African Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA) on Jan. 1 after President Biden “determined that Ethiopia, Guinea and Mali do not meet the requirements” laid out in AGOA.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the administration was “deeply concerned by the unconstitutional change in governments in both Guinea and Mali, and by the gross violations of internationally recognized human rights being perpetrated by the government of Ethiopia and other parties amid the widening conflict in northern Ethiopia.”

The performance of sub-Saharan African countries in the period improved 3.8 percent to $140.5 million worth of denim apparel imports.

On the other hand, jeans imports from Western Hemisphere countries rose 39.63 percent to $779.85 million in the period. Within that region, shipments from Central American Free Trade Agreement countries increased 30.13 percent to $142.91 million.

Industry forces have been fueling momentum to expand production in Central America, in a bid to strengthen the region itself and boost sourcing from its main source of raw materials–U.S. textile mills, as well as move manufacturing out of Asia, particularly China.

Vice President Kamala Harris announced significant multimillion-dollar investments by Parkdale Mills and six other companies last month, as part of the administration’s “Call to Action” to the private sector to promote economic opportunity in the region, as her office works to address the root causes of migration. North Carolina-headquartered Parkdale Mills, a major manufacturer of spun yarn and cotton consumer products, will make a multimillion-dollar investment in a new yarn spinning facility in Honduras and make an additional substantial investment to support existing operations in Hillsville, Va.

At the same time, Gildan Activewear used one of its wholly owned subsidiaries to acquire 100 percent of the equity interests of Phoenix Sanford LLC, the parent company of Frontier Yarns.