Faced with political uncertainties in regional markets such as Syria, Iraq, Iran and Russia, which either face major upheavals or are burdened by international sanctions precluding their ability to pay for imports (Iran has been exempted from the sanctions), Turkish textile and garment suppliers are turning their attention to markets in Asia, Africa, the United States and Latin America.
Mustafa Denizer, a board member of the Istanbul Textile and Raw Materials Exporters’ Association, popularly known by its Turkish acronym ITHIB, and the vice president of the Istanbul-based sewing-thread and hand-knit producing company, said that Turkey’s textile exports, including fabrics and technical textiles, had reached $8 billion in 2016. Some $18 billion worth of garments were exported, making Turkey the world’s sixth-largest garment exporter.
“Our major markets are Saudi Arabia and the Gulf … we are also supplying to Europe. We also see a slight recovery in imports into Russia,” Denizer said, adding that Turkish suppliers were very keen to penetrate other markets, particularly the United States, Latin America and Asia. He envisions that Africa will be the “new frontier” for the textile trade.
Turkey, which manufactures acryl, buys raw materials from China, Indonesia and other supplying nations. Turkey imports cotton, mainly from Egypt.
Turkey’s growing emphasis on R&D in textile sector
Recognizing that it must be creative, innovative and a step ahead of the fierce competition in the international markets, Turkey is placing greater emphasis on research and development in the textile sector. The country has set up the Istanbul Textile Research, Development and Education Institute (ITRDEI) which collaborates with Aachen University’s Institute of Textile Technology in Germany.
Bayran Aslan, managing director of the ITRDEI, said that his institute, a joint venture between the ITHIB and Aachen University’s Institute of Textile Technology, was there to bolster Turkey’s textile industry by helping it with innovation, quality improvement, productivity enhancement and so forth. “We develop fiber-based solutions for the Turkish industry to enable the latter to ensure its production capability and quality-control in the field of technical textiles, and assist it to maintain these in technical textiles. Our R&D work is carried out in Istanbul in collaboration with Aachen University,” Aslan said, adding that an increasing number of Turkish textile companies are resorting to digitalization.
“In the area of technical textiles, we assist them by enhancing their competence,” he said.
Aslan tried to put things “in perspective” as far as the current political situation in Turkey is concerned, saying that Western broadcast and print media paint a negative picture of the uncertainties that plague the country. “The German textile trade has said that business has not been affected by developments taking place in Turkey in the recent past. I would like foreign investors to talk directly with Turkish companies, and they will get a different picture. Business is not affected by the political developments,” Aslan said.
Turkish companies, he said, were very keen to enter the technical textiles market. Turkey had, in the past, concentrated mainly on traditional textiles but there is a shift to newer market segments. Aslan also discerned a growing interest among Turkish companies to supply textile machinery whose quality, he says, has steadily improved over the years.
Aslan cited as example the HAS Group, a Turkish textile machinery supplier, that has been accepted as a member of the German Machinery Suppliers’ Association, as well as AG-TEKS, which produces yarn-manufacturing machines that perform operations including cabling and twisting, and is one of the world’s leading machinery manufacturers.
“I see Turkey’s strength not just in conventional and technical textile manufacturing but also in the production of textile machinery,” Aslan said, adding that Turkey would become one of the world’s key players in the area of textile machinery in the future.
Manik Mehta is a New York-based Apparel contributing writer.