Textile industry preparing for ‘post-mask era’
The industry’s exports of face masks and protective suits hit record levels during the pandemic. But people from the sector are optimistic that the country’s textile products will remain strong in the post-mask period.
“People are buying less of those products, and demand for them will keep declining unless another variant of the coronavirus emerges. Individuals may continue to wear face masks, but demand for them is not likely to be as strong as it was before,” said Mustafa Gültepe, head of the Istanbul Ready-to-Wear Clothing and Apparel Exporters’ Association (İHKİB),
Presently, supply well exceeds demand, but in the future, companies may face idle capacity, Gültepe warned.
The industry’s shipments of face masks and protective suits to foreign markets amounted to as much as $1.5 billion during the peak of the pandemic, but export revenues from those products currently declined to around $150 million, said Gültepe, who predicted that the figure might drop further to $100 million.
The southeastern province of Gaziantep became the hub for the face mask and protective suit production.
At the start of the pandemic, some companies stepped into the face mask and protective suit production business, seeking to make quick money, said Fikret Kileci, the board chair of the Southeastern Anatolian Textile and Raw Materials Exporters’ Association (GATHİB).
“Those profiteers have disappeared, and companies which do their job properly created a strong industry. We are still shipping protective equipment, masks and fabrics to all over the world from our region,” Kileci said.
There had been excessive investment in this particular segment, but it is not necessarily a bad thing, Kileci added.
Echoing Gültepe, Kileci also said that demand for those products will be weaker as countries are returning to normalcy, but still voiced hope for the future. “Some people will never ditch face masks, they will continue to wear them, that’s for sure.”
However, Kileci voiced optimism about the potential of the industry, noting that technical textile products are widely used in many areas.
He noted that Turkey previously did not have a developed protective and technical textile sector. “But in the wake of the pandemic, this sector developed fast, and the companies operating in this segment acquired experience and necessary skills. An industry, which manufactures a high value-added product, has emerged,” he added.
Turkey, along with China, is one of the two countries in the world that are self-sufficient in technical textile, according to Kileci. “Previously the price of those products was 10 cents, but now they sell for $15.”