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Can Egypt’s Textile Industry Survive Political Turmoil?

Roiled by political unrest and balanced on the brink of civil war, Egypt continues to send signals that its textile industry remains strong. Mohamed Kassem, chairman of Egypt’s Ready-Made Garments Export Council, contends that, despite domestic chaos, “production has never stopped and deliveries will be met.”

Nevertheless, Egypt’s textile sector has languished since the 2011 revolution. According to Mohamed al-Murshedi, president of the Textile Industry Division and vice president of the Federation of Investors, approximately forty percent of Egypt’s textile factories have shuttered their doors due to national economic malaise.

Mohamed al-Qalyubi, president of the the Investors Organization of Mahala, said that at least forty textile factories have permanently shut down, including major ones operated by Abu al-Sabaa and Fajar al-Mahala.

Fatahi al-Sayyed, president of the Investors Organization of Buhaira, claims that as many as 100 manufacturing companies of various sizes have closed down as a result of Egypt’s economic downturn.

Egypt’s exports received a short-lived boost last December from the devaluation of its currency. However, businesses have struggled to capture these gains since the general economic condition continues to deteriorate and the garment industry is so dependent upon its own imports of yarn, fabric, and various accessories.

Egyptian cotton is renowned for its high quality but is mainly exported since it is generally too expensive to be used to manufacture denim and t-shirts, the main cotton products desired by Western retailers.

One of Egypt’s biggest employers, the textile industry provides nearly a quarter of all its industrial jobs and accounts for twenty-seven percent of of all non-oil exports. Egypt exported $2.2 billion worth of textiles in the first nine months of 2012, a hefty ten percent drop off from the previous year. In 2013, so far, that decline persists unabated.