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A brief history of Brazilian textile industry

Brazil is now the 4th largest exporter of cotton. The global high demand for cotton has allowed Brazil to grow slowly and steadily in the textile industry.

Mir Abdullah Al Mahfuz

The textile industry in Brazil is young in comparison to other countries; however, it looks to be growing in strength and power as a green business and future fashion. The textile and apparel industry participates with equivalent amounts to more than 5% of the total Brazilian GNP in 2017.

Brazilian textile industry
Figure: The fashion industry is growing in Brazil. Courtesy: Bertrand Delvaux

Brazil’s Textile Industry

Currently, the textile industry in Brazil is worth over 65 billion dollars, employing millions of Brazilians. Additionally, they have created over 30,000 companies that pertain to the textile industry, which makes it one of the highest employers in Brazil. And this is for a country that only really became an industry influence in early 2000.

Their two most produced textiles are leather and cotton. Originally, leather was Brazil’s largest export due to the available land and the cattle and sheep rose, however, cotton has now become even more important. Brazil is now the 4th largest exporter of cotton. The global high demand for cotton has allowed Brazil to grow slowly and steadily in this arena.

According to the Brazilian Association of Textile and Apparel Industries, the South American nation has produced 2001000 tons worth of textiles – the fifth biggest global manufacturer behind China, India, USA, and Pakistan. But this incredible amount of fabric makes up just 2.4% of the global textile production, compared to a whopping 50% from China.

Additionally, as Brazil does not have the changing seasons of the United States, it can supply cotton during the off-season when the US cannot. Since the US is one of the largest suppliers of cotton they are also a large competitor for Brazil, but not as much so due to the timing of when cotton is available for each country.

Top ten cotton producing countries in 2017-18


Brazil is mostly known for their summer clothing in the fashion world, though they also have influence in other fashion areas. They also have luxury brands and other younger brands that sell in many countries all over the globe.

The clothing industry has become so key for Brazil that they have the Brazilian Textile and Garment Industry Association (ABIT). Due to ABIT, the fashion side of the textile industry has seen an increase because of investment by the state to export Brazilian fashion. The hope is to ensure that of all the textile industry, the fashion sects are given the chance to export their products all over the world.

The ABIT reported some 60% of the garments imported to Brazil from Asia actually come from China. Garment imports from Asia have surpassed $1.450bn, an increase of more than 500% since 2006.

Brazil’s textile and apparel exports are revitalizing

After the economic recession, which severely affected the country’s industrial performance, Brazil’s textile and apparel industry has finally achieved some success in terms of its textile and apparel exports, especially exports to Arabic markets.

According to recent figures from the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce (ABCC), Brazilian exports of textiles and apparel to the Arab World have surged during the first two months of 2017, increasing by 87.5% from the same period a year ago, reaching USD 3 million up from USD 1.6 million in January and February 2016. This significant growth has mainly been led by the increasing demand for synthetic fabric and sisal rope used in ships and rigs in the Arab markets.

The Brazilian Textile and Apparel Industry Association (ABIT) also reported that sales from rope exports accounted for USD 1 million, while beachwear, textile yarns, and inner garments also rose during the two months. ABIT’s survey of exports covers various parts of the production chain including raw materials such as fibers, yarns and filaments, as well as technical and non-fabric industrial textiles, and clothing.

Currently, the Arab countries are some of Brazil’s largest markets for textile and apparel exports, particularly for segments such as party wear, children’s wear, and beachwear. Based on ABIT’s latest data, the United Arab Emirates had the highest imports of Brazilian textiles and clothing during this period, followed by Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and Lebanon.

To boost Brazilian textile and apparel industry exports, the Brazilian Textile and Apparel Industry Association and the Brazilian Trade and Investment Agency (Apex-Brazil) have launched the Texbrasil program, which serves to benefit affiliated exporters. Official figures showed that Brazilian textile and apparel companies that have participated in the program expanded their export markets to Arab countries by 40% in 2016, with a total value reaching USD 4.1 million in 2016 from USD 2.9 million in 2015.

The Brazilian textile and apparel industry is much wider than most people think, going beyond the clothing. However, as far as export is concerned, Brazil’s non-automatic import licensing system as a trade policy tool to control trade flows has led to a decrease in exports of certain community textile products; a loss of competitiveness; a significant loss of Brazilian clients and order cancellations; an increase in financial costs; a limitation in the range of products that may be exported.

This trend is likely to change in years to come, as some of the manufacturers are now focusing on promoting their individual brands. With changes in the international market, Brazil is likely to become an open textile market, till then the Brazilian authorities are working on reviving the local markets to ensure that the textile and apparel sector continues with its present momentum of growth. The country is showing great promise in becoming a large manufacturer and exporter of textiles.

About the Author: Mir Abdullah Al Mahfuz, has done BSc from BUFT, and a regular contributor to Textile Today.

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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