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To Boost Exports, Thai Textilers Look to Silk

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Thailand’s textile and apparel exports rose this quarter, but just barely–from $1.82 billion in goods between January and March of 2012 to $1.84 billion in the same months of 2013, for a growth of just over 1%.

Textile exports actually increased by 6.37%, but were no match for the drastic drop in apparel exports–from $749 million in goods to $701 million, a decline of 6.43%. The U.S. was by far the largest consumer of Thai apparel, buying $249.9 million in goods, followed by Japan, which bought $101.17 million in apparel imports.

Hoping for more robust numbers in later quarters, the Thailand Textile Institute (THTI) has targeted exports of Thai silk and silk garments. In 2012, silk exports fell by a dramatic 16.2%, from to $22 million to $18.5 million, over half of which were finished garments destined for either the U.S. or Japan. Silk imports to Thailand, mostly from China, also dropped 23.5%.

To address the silk issue, the THTI has joined forced with the Queen Sirikit Department of Sericulture and the Office of Knowledge Management and Development with the express purpose of growing silk exports. THTI Director Suttinee Poopaka told the Bangkok Post that two Italian designers have been hired on as consultants.

The taskforce will start with the silk itself–studying and improving texture and density, and exploring combinations of silk and other fabrics. Joined by a half dozen Thai design companies, the group will develop new pilot products in home textiles, apparel, and accessories. At the end of the fiscal year, the designers will present their findings to Thai silk producers.

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