China makes up more than one-third of global apparel exports. It is the world’s biggest importer of cotton yarn from nations such as India, Vietnam, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan due to the huge demand of the country’s textile and apparel industry.

However, the world’s second-largest economy saw its cotton-yarn imports this year plummet to an all-time low over the last 10 years.

South China Morning Post (SCMP), citing customs data, reported on November 19 that China’s cotton yarn imports in the first 9 months tumbled by 33.2% to $2.8 billion, compared with $4.3 billion from a year earlier.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that this year’s loss accounts for about 3.5 million bales of cotton lint. 

Manish Daga, managing director at cotton consultancy CottonGuru in India, thinks that China’s significant drop in orders indicates a “global slowdown in apparel demand.”

Daga said, “The apparel and garments market is not doing well. That’s why yarn imports by China have reduced significantly.”

USDA explained that China’s falling imports were due to the draconian zero-tolerance approach hurting production and domestic demand in many cities across the country.

Daga added, “There is uncertainty among manufacturers [in China]. That is why they have lowered consumption [of yarn]. They are not building inventory because they don’t know when lockdowns will be imposed again.”

Global exporters also suffer serious logistics issues from the communist regime’s harsh COVID prevention measures.

Arun Dwivedi, the owner of Charun Enterprise, an Indian exporter of organic cotton, said, “Oftentimes, our containers are stopped, and there is no reliability.” 

Dwivedi claimed that the transit time in China’s ports is much longer now. It used to take 25-35 days, but the COVID policy and container shortage have doubled the waiting time.

As a result, his company has stopped exporting to China this season, contrasting with 25,000 bales of cotton shipped to the nation at the end of last year.

Regarding the outlook for global apparel manufacturing, USDA said in an August report that countries such as Vietnam, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Turkey will likely account for 47% of global cotton imports before 2030.

Meanwhile, China, which makes up more than half of all cotton imports at its peak in 2012 and 2013, saw its imports plunge to 26% in 2021.

And by the year 2030, this figure could further drop to about 24% due to growing production costs and wider application of synthetic fibers.

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