EghtesadOnline: The production volume of Iran’s apparel industry is half its nominal capacity, according to Reza Taziki, an official with the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare.
“Close to 530,000 people across the country are working in the garment industry whereas, in view of Iran’s 80 million population, the number should have been at least 1.5 million,” he was quoted as saying by Tasnim News Agency.
“Unlike the global apparel market, classic clothes manufacturing accounts for 60% of domestic production whereas consumption of casual wear is more popular among consumers. Domestic production of clothes is not in accordance with consumption needs. Therefore, people depend on imports to meet their clothing needs.”
Referring to the availability of 28 academic disciplines in textile and apparel studies in the neighboring countries, including Turkey, the official said, “There are no fashion specialists in Iran whereas Iranian universities offer only three majors with focus on apparel industry.”
According to Financial Tribune, apparel and clothing are among smugglers' favorite commodities, considering the huge size of Iran's market and restriction on imports.
In June last year, the import of 1,339 commodities categorized as “non-essential goods with domestic counterparts” were banned by the government to economize on foreign currency and support domestically-made products. The list included apparel and clothing.
Later in January, the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade removed 47 commodities from the list of banned imports. Clothing and apparel were among items removed from the list.
However, Director General of Textile and Clothing Department of the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade Afsaneh Mehrabi recently said the ban on imports of shoes and clothes still remains in force.
Wide Discrepancies as to Market Size, Volume of Smuggling
Tehran Governor General Anoushiravan Mohseni Bandpay recently said as much as $3.2 billion worth of clothing are smuggled into the country every year, ILNA reported.
This is while former cooperatives minister, Ali Rabiei (now the government spokesman), said some $8 billion worth of contraband apparel enter the country, whereas according to former industries minister, Mohammad Shriatmadari (now the cooperatives minister), the figure approximates $6 billion per year.
The Headquarters for Combating the Smuggling of Commodities and Foreign Exchange believes contraband constitutes $2.6 billion of the Iranian clothing market.
As for the size of the domestic apparel market in Iran, expert opinions also differ by a wide margin.
Citing World Trade Organization figures, Majid Eftekhari, a board member of Iran’s Apparel Production and Sales Union, says Iran’s apparel market is as big as $14-15 billion per annum.
This is while the Headquarters for Combating the Smuggling of Commodities and Foreign Exchange puts the figure at $8.1 billion.
Both the above-mentioned organizations put Iran’s domestic apparel production value at $5.5 billion per annum.
In a recent report citing the Statistical Center of Iran's data, Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture put the value of the market at 267.58 trillion rials ($2.24 billion) in the last fiscal year (ended March 20, 2019). Clothes and shoes accounted for 208.97 trillion rials ($1.75 billion) and 58.61 trillion rials ($429 million) of the total sum respectively.
According to the TCCIM report, domestic demand is largely supplied by imports, a significant portion of which are products smuggled into the country through unofficial channels, as evident in the huge difference between data provided by Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration and those by the International Trade Center.
IRICA data show a total of $60 million worth of clothes, in addition to $35.3 million worth of shoes, were imported into Iran last year.
As for clothes, 64% or about $38 million were imported from Turkey. China, Germany and the UAE, followed with 10%, 9% and 7% respectively.
China, Turkey and the UAE were the biggest exporters of shoes to Iran last year with shares of 37%, 28% and 21% respectively.
The International Trade Center's data put imports of clothes and shoes into Iran at $856.5 million and $314 million respectively in 2017.
The biggest difference in figures is seen in those related to imports from China. While IRICA says China exported $6.2 million worth of clothes to Iran in March 2017-18, ITC says the exports were valued at $493 million in 2017.
Differences in figures for other countries, including the UAE, Turkey, India and Italy, are also noticeable.
IRICA says $4.3 million, $38.3 million, $91,000 and $735,000 worth of clothes were imported to Iran from these countries respectively last year.
ITC puts the respective imports at $215 million, $95 million, $19 million and $17 million respectively in 2017.
Hassan Nilforoush-Zadeh, secretary-general of Iran Textile Industry Association, says 98% of Iran’s textile industry are owned by the private sector.
“Our main plight is the huge amount of contraband items that enter the country. It seems that even the police can’t stop smuggling. Other handicaps include problems related to money transactions, foreign exchange and transportation caused by reimposed US sanctions,” he said.