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Coronavirus pandemic tears holes in Asia's garment industry

更新时间:2020-04-09 13:00:31点击次数:209次字号:T|T
PHNOM PENH -- Chul Sreymom, a seamstress at the Sangwoo factory near Phnom Penh, has been putting together clothes for some of the world's biggest fashion brands for as long as she has been working. But this week she watched as 60 of her colleagues were sent home as Sangwoo's work dries up -- and now the breadwinner for elderly parents fears she will be next.

"I don't know what else I can do," the 40-year-old told the Nikkei Asian Review. "Working in a garment factory is what I have done all my life."

She is among millions in Asia's low-wage apparel export industry whose livelihoods are jeopardized by the coronavirus pandemic.

Four months after its emergence in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the novel coronavirus has triggered an unprecedented crisis for Asia's apparel exporters who, thanks to the rapid globalization of the past decade, employ millions of workers and help underpin some of the world's most fragile economies.

The trouble began in February with fabric supply shortages as the virus hit China's $250 billion textile sector. But just as China restarted production -- giving garment factories hope of getting operations back on track -- demand collapsed as lockdowns around the globe forced retailers to shut their doors and populations to prioritize staples.

The crisis is hitting as the industry was already facing the prospect of globalization going into reverse as consumer concerns grow over labor standards and Western fashion brands consider relying more on shorter supply chains closer to home.

"We have zero cash flow and buyers are not upholding their end of the contractual obligations," said Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturing Association in Cambodia.

"How many companies do you think can survive long with zero cash flow? Even the most successful airlines in the world have announced they may go bankrupt without government assistance. That's what we are facing."

It is a similarly grim story across the region, where thousands of factories have been partially or fully closed.

Workers occupy a recently closed garment factory near Yangon, Myanmar, on March 6 to demand their salaries and overtime pay as the coronavirus deals a heavy blow to the region's garment industry.   © EPA/ Jiji

"All orders are cancelled," said Mostafiz Uddin, a factory owner in Bangladesh, where reports estimate some $3 billion worth of contracts have been paused or scrapped and more than 1 million workers have been fired or furloughed.

In Indonesia, more than 3 million work in the sector. "Demand is declining sharply," said Jemmy Kartiwa chairman of a textile association there.

In Vietnam, a textile industry body estimated their sector could take a $467 million hit. In Myanmar, where at least 20 factories halted amid the fabric shortage and more suspensions are expected, it's now a matter of survival, said Khin Maung Aye, chairman and founder of a 10,000-worker jacket and shirt factory in Yangon.

"If you survive now, you will be back again," he told Nikkei, adding job losses were inevitable.

Survival, however, is far from guaranteed for manufacturers operating on thin margins and often pay-on-delivery terms.

Some brands including H&M and Zara-owner Inditex, committed to pay in full for existing orders. In a statement, H&M said the "extreme situation" had necessitated a pause on new orders. "Our long-term commitment to suppliers remains intact," the company said.

Others brands, however, have triggered "force majeure" clauses. A cancelation letter seen by Nikkei, purportedly from Europe's C&A to suppliers, asserted the "extraordinary situation" had "materially changed ... if not destroyed" the preconditions of the orders.

(编辑:admin)
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