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The executive director of the Chamber of Commerce of the Salvadoran apparel and textile industry (CAMTEX ) was recently interviewed by a leading trade industry magazine regarding the industry’s prospects as the Covid-19 pandemic ebbs.
Patricia Figueroa, who has headed the organization since 2015, also discussed the challenges that the Salvadoran apparel and textile industry will face in the coming year with the help and assistance of CAMTEX.
The Salvadoran apparel and textile industry is making a comeback.
Two years after experiencing widespread lockdowns, the apparel and textile sector in El Salvador has been fully restored. As a result, the industry has increased its exports by 54.2% between January and September (2021) in comparison to the same period one year earlier. By the end of September of this year, export profits rose to US $1.99 billion. This figure represents a two percent increase over the comparable period in 2019. “It is our goal to close the year by surpassing the numbers that the industry achieved in 2019,” explained Figueroa.
“Much of this progress is related to the early adoption and application of aggressive strategies for the handling of Covid 19 by local businesses. As a result, companies adopted suitable protocols that were supported by their management. In addition to this, the national authorities administered an intense and successful vaccination program,” stated Figueroa.
El Salvador’s government has made extensive use of vaccines that include Sinovac, Pfizer, and Moderna to normalize the economy. More than 65% of the country’s 6.6 million inhabitants were vaccinated against Covid-19 by this past December 3rd.
Figueroa’s global executive experience has been a substantial asset for CAMTEX because it assisted the firms in the Salvadoran apparel and textile industry in coping with the pandemic. Deaths by Covid in El Salvador totaled 3,638 men and women, while the number of infected rose to 113,422 individuals across this core American region.
In 2000, she was director of marketing and business development of the Central American Group’s International Free Zone in Comalapa, Olocuilta. This community is located in the southern district of San Salvador. During her time with the company, she was instrumental in attracting many firms to the facility. Noteworthy among these businesses is the South Korean global textile manufacturing firm, Youngone.
The Salvadoran apparel and textile industry makes export progress
Figueroa’s CAMTEX has been crucial in making El Salvador one of the top ten rated clothing and fabric shippers to the US during the current year (2021). The US International Trade Administration’s (ITA) Department of Textiles and Clothes (OTEXA) has verified the CAMTEX expansion statistics. ITA data show that shipments from the Salvadoran apparel and clothing industry expanded by 65% from January through August (2021). “This demonstrates that the US market is the principal export customer of El Salvador. Articles of clothing and textiles represent 40.4 % of the country’s overall exports. In addition, the industry is among the largest generators of employment for the Salvadoran people,” stated Figueroa.
El Salvador’s textile sector manufactures a variety of products and employs 230,000 men and women (directly and indirectly). The country is home to 6.5 million inhabitants. The apparel and textile sector grew by more than 12,500 workers during the first semester of 2021. This reflects an expansion of 18.7%. Although this represents a recovery, the industry has yet to fill all 85,000 positions it maintained before the pandemic. The official rate of unemployment in El Salvador is currently around 8%. Women represent 60% of the workforce in the Salvadoran apparel and textile industry.
In the opening six months of 2021, El Salvador’s apparel and textile exports consisted of pure cotton t-shirts ( valued at US $342.8 million), man-made fiber t-shirts (valued at US $109 million), and overcoats for males and children (valued at US $158 million).
El Salvador apparel industry targets US industry
The manufacturing of apparel in El Salvador remains targeted for sales to US industry brands. Seventy percent of the country’s exports go to Walmart, Disney, and Nike. This is in addition to significant shipments to the Canadian clothing firm Lululemon. Moreover, neighboring countries consume about 25% of the products manufactured in El Salvador in terms of fabrics sales. In addition, countries in the region such as Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras use Salvadoran textiles to make end-user products to ship to US customers. “We are working to strengthen sales to Europe as well,” asserted Figueroa.
In addition to this, CAMTEX is working with Salvadoran authorities to put proposals into action that create nearshoring opportunities for foreign investors. This includes streamlining the process to establish a business in El Salvador.
The Salvadoran apparel and textile industry adjusts to new demands and sustainability
El Salvador is also an active participant in the Central American-Dominican Republic Council of Textiles and Clothing (CECATEC-RD). In the context of this organization, Figueroa concentrates on the Salvadoran business and is working to boost competitiveness in the Central American and Caribbean Basin as a whole. “We believe that each nation can focus on specific operations and items. This permits us to join forces and successfully collaborate despite some of the rivalries that exist,” proposed Figueroa.
Who is Patricia Figueroa?
Patricia Figueroa has acted as the executive director of the Chamber of the Salvadoran apparel and textile industry in El Salvador (CAMTEX) since 2015. During this period, she has promoted positive change in an industry known for low taxation rates and inexpensive labor. Figueroa is helping the Salvadoran apparel and textile industry to be recognized for quality as well as cost. Ms. Figueroa has been director of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham El Salvador). She has also been the ambassador of El Salvador to India. Figueroa has also been deputy director of a USAID program to create and support SMEs in El Salvador. In this position, she helped to generate US $60 million in revenue and create 8,000 jobs.
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