IndustryThe South African Clothing, Footwear and Textiles Industry
Where to from here?
“Welcome to Ghost Town.”
The title of an article published in the Clothing industry Pursuit magazine. Dimbaza once a thriving hub of clothing and garment factories now lies deserted with 110 of the once 120 active factories mothballed, 5000 job losses in 18 months.
Unfortunately this is not an uncommon story but rather one which is becoming all the more frequent as the local Clothing, Footwear and Textiles industries are ravaged by the competitive global juggernaut, China!
But surely this could have been avoided the lament rises.
The truth is that global move to free trade and the effects of a rampant Rand in recent years have all but blindsided an industry which for years existed in a artificial vacuum, blissfully ignorant to the slumbering global forces that would change the market for ever.
And laments there have been! COSATU have held national strikes, Retailers have diplomatically fended off local procurement commitments and the government has steadfastly remained stoic – help yourself and we will assist the continued view. A divided sector in a time when division is not only ill-advised but tantamount to suicide!
Where to for here?
This discussion analyses the contributing factors and outlines policy recommendations, vital to the survival of the sector in ANY form.
2.1 Formation of the South African Clothing, Footwear and Textiles Industry4
2.2. The current reality is bleak!4
3. CONTRIBUTING FACTORS6
3.2. Trade liberalisation6
3.3. Local Competitiveness8
3.4. Less protectionism and compromised competitiveness = more imports9
3.5. Reasons for Chinese dominance of world markets9
4. REACTION FROM STAKEHOLDERS10
4.1. SACTWU and COSATU10
4.2. National Retailers Response11
4.3. Governments response12
4.4. China’s response13
5. POLICY SUGGESTIONS14
5.1. Short Term Measures14
5.1.1. Consensus must be achieved!14
5.1.2. Short-Term Protectionism is key14
5.1.3. Stem illegal and under-invoiced imports15
5.1.4 Outcome of Short Term Measures15
5.2. Longer Term Interventions15
5.2.1. Industry assistance15
5.2.2. Reduce raw material prices16
5.2.3. Relaxation of current labour legislation16
5.2.4. Increase trade opportunities16
5.2.5. Repositioning of the industry model17
5.2.6. Skills, technology and process improvements17
5.2.7. Outcome of longer-term initiatives17
The South African Clothing, Footwear and Textiles Industries are in crisis!
Once cosseted by the protection offered by high levels of trade restrictions and international isolation, and a blissful period of Rand weakness the past three years have seen it being harshly exposed to international competition especially from the dominant Asian giant, China.
The industry context, major contributing factors and stakeholder reaction is examined with policy recommendations being presented in defining an effective strategy going forward.
One thing is clear. Business as usual is no longer an option, only radical and focussed effort will meet with any measure of success!
2.1 Formation of the South African Clothing, Footwear and Textiles Industry
The South African Clothing, Footwear and Textiles industry developed in an environment of heavy protectionism with restrictive import tariffs and quantitative quota’s shielding the local industry from international competition. In addition to the market interventions the apartheid regime provided direct support to the industry formation through investment support from by the state-owned Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).
The focus of the industry was largely internal with exports only forming 6% of production in the 1970’s growing sedately to 15% in 1989 (Democratic Alliance, Hanging by a Thread) prior to the imposition of international sanctions in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
2.2. The current reality is bleak!
After years of protectionism firstly through the intervention of the state and thereafter isolation from competitive world markets through the imposition of international trade sanctions, the inward focussed Clothing, Footwear and Textiles industry was harshly exposed to international competition post the implementation of extensive trade liberalisation policies after South African acceptance of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1994.
As trade regulations have been aggressively relaxed over the past few years the impact on the local industry has been severe. More than 43500 jobs have been lost since 2003 with a net reduction in employment estimated at 75000 since 1996 by Statistics SA. (The Shopsteward” Special Edition, 2005) This is clearly demonstrated by the data in Table and Figure 1 below.
Table 1 Employment in South African Textiles and Clothing (Statistics South Africa)
Spinning, weaving & finishingOther textilesKnitted/crocheted fabrics & articlesClothing
199335 26030 69515 976124 687
199435 83932 05314 567124 538
199534 64132 36913 682134 945
199645 56632 88619 158149 219
199742 74432 71318 484136 433
199830 16926 72514 540113 577
199926 27827 71911 661122 380
200025 37930 09711 150125 237
200125 20328 16910 701122 513
200226 63427 90410 913122 531
200323 02934 76512 675103 935
09/200419 95431 51610 107101 234
Source: (Democratic Alliance, Hanging by a Thread)
The resultant socio-economic impact is significant. The closure of factories and resultant job loss has contributed to the continued high unemployment.
Of particular significance is the associated demographic distribution of this burden. The industry is concentrated in specific geographic areas where it represents a substantial proportion of the local employment. This is especially evident in towns such as Worcester, Isithebe, King Williams Town, Newcastle, Ladysmith, Paarl, Durban, Cape Town and Atlantis.
In addition to the geographic concentration the industry represents a significant employer of women. As per CTFL Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA), 66.1% of workers are women which is significant when contrasted against the economic and manufacturing averages of 43.7% and 33.2% respectively. The majority of workers are either African or Coloured, largely classified as blue collared’ workers, with wages being amongst the lowest in the manufacturing industry. (The Shopsteward” Special Edition, 2005)
Hence the impact is amplified through concentration in lower income groups, contributing to large-scale poverty and associated social ramifications impacting entire communities. Given the geographic concentration as detailed above the lack of employment opportunities contributes to significant labour migration to more favourable employment markets.
3. CONTRIBUTING FACTORS
There are many contributing factors to the current situation.
In essence these are largely a result of the increase in low cost imports as a result of inadequate competitiveness of local industry in comparison to global juggernauts such as China. These inefficiencies have been exposed through the aggressive adoption of free trade principles by the South African government post 1994.
Salient features of each factor are examined below.
3.2. Trade liberalisation
The 1970’s, 80’s and early 90’s were characterised by significant tariffs and quantitative quotas based on the Multifibre Agreement (MFA). This agreement enabled countries where local industry was significantly threatened by increasing imports to utilise import quotas. As detailed above the apartheid government made use of these provisions and in addition through the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) facilitated significant investment in the industry, resulting in a large, inward focussed sector.
However post 1994, the South African government has committed itself to harnessing free trade and international competition in stimulating significant sustainable growth a demonstrated in it’s stated policies such as RDP and GEAR.
In 1994 the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) was accepted by South Africa, which has committed itself to aggressively implement the World Trade Organisations (WTO) Agreement on Textiles and Clothing Imports. Effectively the agreement formalised in 1995 requires WTO members to gradually reduce quotas over 10 years towards congruence with the terms of GATT. This culminates in all quotas being removed by 01 January 2005.
The details of the reductions are shown in Table 2 below.
Table 2. The WTO’s Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC)
StepPercentage of products to be brought under GATT and have quotas removedPercentage of products to be brought under GATT and have quotas removed annually
Step 1: 1 January 1995 to 31 December 199716 %(Minimum, taking 1990 imports as base)6.96%
Step 2: 1 January 1998 to 31 December 200117%8.7%
Step 3: 1 January 2002 to 31 December 200418%11.05%
Step 4: 1 January 2005ATC comes to an endWTO members fully integrate their industries into GATT and eliminate all quotas 49%No quotas left
Source: (Democratic Alliance, Hanging by a Thread)
It is argued that the process of liberalisation followed by the South African government is significantly more aggressive than required under the GATT agreement and subsequent WTO regulations.
In addition to the quota reductions there has been commensurate wide scale changes to the tariff structures, which characterised the industry. The programme, which has been followed, is represented in Figure 2. below.
Source: (Democratic Alliance, Hanging by a Thread)
It is clear at face value that there have been significant reductions, with decreases of upwards of 50% in some sectors.
In addition the number of tariff lines have been reduced significantly from upwards of 10000 to less than 6000 with differentiated tariff rates standardised to six rates between 0% and 30% with quantitative and formula duties changed to ad valorem tariffs. The result is that South Africa now has some of the lowest import tariffs globally.
The impact on the industry of the above is exacerbated by challenges in restricting illegal and under invoiced imports.
It is clear that the South African Clothing, Footwear and Textiles market place is fundamentally different from where it was pre 1994. It thus follows that the commensurate requirements to compete are likewise changed.
3.3. Local Competitiveness
As expected given the ample protection of the 70’s and 80’s and the restrictions of apartheid international trade sanctions, the local Clothing, Footwear and Textiles industry was never pressed to increase productivity to world standards.
An inherently inward focussed inefficient industry was, given the favourable labour requirements, the focus of substantial investment as a result of the attentions of the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).
This created an artificial vacuum not supportive of competitive repositioning.
In the aftermath of the 1994 commitment to WTO regulations, the industry has been forced to reposition itself in a relatively short period (1995 -2005) to compete with growing pressure from international competitors especially China. Ironically at the same time as the South African government fundamentally altered market conditions, a similarly significant change to labour legislation was made.
Given the atrocious and systematic exploitation of workers under the apartheid regime, labour protection was a key focus post 1994. The resultant labour legislation is at the same time amongst the most progressive yet restrictive in the world. Particularly the elements governing minimum wage, sectoral determination and Basic Conditions of Employment legislation are prohibitively restrictive in an industry that must compete on the basis of cost.
This is particularly evident if one contrasts the $2.40 / hour minimum wage for a machinist in South African urban areas with the $0.40 paid for similar skill sets in China’s Hebei province (Democratic Alliance, Hanging by a Thread).
In addition to the minimum wage the Basic Conditions of Employment Act increases labour costs substantially, in relation to competitors such as China, through differentiated rates for overtime and weekend work especially in an environment where production runs are often periodic yet time dependant.
With labour being a substantial and differentiating production factor in the industry, it is clear that the conflicting pressures of international cost based competitive realties in contrast with the domestic socio-economic imperatives of labour protectionism creates an almost untenable environment in maintaining the local industry.
3.4. Less protectionism and compromised competitiveness = more imports
Post 1994, the annual GDP growth has remained positive. Sound economic policy and prudent fiscal control has led to continued economic growth albeit shy of the targets set in GEAR and those required to significantly impact on the systemic unemployment situation.
This is evidenced by the Southern African Labour Research Institutes (SALRI) findings of real value growth in sales of men’s clothing for 1999 to 2003 of 55%, with women’s clothing sales increasing by 40% and footwear by 38%. (The Shopsteward” Special Edition, 2005)
Given the buoyant retail demand one would expect that the local industry would to be in for a boom. This has not proved to be the case. Largely the current retail upswing has been fuelled by a dramatic increase in imports, especially from China.
From 2001 to 2003 clothing imports grew by 4% in $US. However this growth accelerated sharply on the back of the Rand strengthening with increases for 2003 and 2004, 73% and 84% respectively!
The change is not merely representative of the strong SA Rand, but represents the emergence, as experienced world wide, of the Chinese domination of the clothing trade.
From 2001 to 2002 Chinese clothing imports grew at 12% in $ terms but this accelerated to 111% for 02/03 and 106% for 03/04. This increased the Chinese share of imports from 49% in 2000 to 74% in 2004 a 50% increase! (The Shopsteward” Special Edition, 2005)
Given that during the same period Stats SA indices have demonstrated a continued shrinkage in local production, it follow that the current shrinkage in local manufacture is largely a result of displacement by imports specifically by cost competitive Chinese goods.
3.5. Reasons for Chinese dominance of world markets
China’s cost competitiveness is a result of four main reasons.
China was arguable the first to recognise that in order to be a dominant player in the global textile market economies of scale are vital, with the need for large factories. The norm for Chinese factories is between 5000 and 10000 employees with some footwear variants employing upwards of 30000! In total the Chinese textile and related industries employs 16 million people.
The manufacturing effort is supported by low cost productive logistics with Chinese ports rated amongst the most efficient worldwide.
The second reason is that it is commonly held that the Chinese Yuan, which is pegged to the $US, is undervalued by up to 40%. As stated previously the Rand has strengthened significantly against the $US over the past years and as a result the relatively competitiveness of Chinese goods has improved significantly in the local market.
The third reason is low labour costs. Labour is a substantial factor of production in the textile industry and with Chinese labour roughly 3% that of the USA and 20% that of South Africa, the challenge to remain competitive is apparent, especially given the restrictive nature of the South African labour market. (Jack Kipling. (2005, May 19). Strategy needed in globalised apparel sector.)
Finally the Chinese government has an active stake in the textiles industry. More than 50% of the Chinese textile and 25% of the clothing sector is state owned and subsidised. In addition China provide exporters of textiles and clothing rebates of 13% while providing cheap start-up capital to new entrants.
The threat to local production is clear. The challenge is not one limited to incremental changes and minor enhancements but rather a radical rethink of current strategy should the local industry survive at it’s current levels.
4. REACTION FROM STAKEHOLDERS
The reaction from various role players has been the centre of much media attention over the past few months. The perspectives from each provide key insights.
4.1. SACTWU and COSATU Response
As is to be expected the reaction of trade unions has been severe. Continued job losses in most manufacturing sectors, specifically impacting on blue-collar’ workers has seen COSATU and SACTWU galvanise their reaction to a national levels.
In April 2005 they lobbied publicly for national retailers to resign the Declaration of the Retailers and SACTWU on the Apparel Industry. In brief the declaration states its aims as:
1.The acknowledgement of job losses in the sector. This is seen as a result of strong Rand and reduced protectionism but not limited to these factors
2.That retailers who signs the declaration supports the need to enhance the buy local campaign
3.The acceptance that a solid and stable apparel manufacturing industry is needed.
4.The recognition that parties need to address the quality and logistic challenges in local manufacture.
In addition to the above principles, the quantitative measurement outlines the key expectation.
“Compliance with procuring more apparel products from South African manufacturers
1.Each retailer who is currently sourcing up to 75% of its apparel products from South African manufacturers will meet with SACTWU in bilateral discussions to discuss its levels of South African procurement and ways of increasing its South African procurement. SACTWU undertakes to respect the confidentiality of any information disclosed in terms of this declaration.
2.Each retailer who currently sources more than 75% of its apparel products from South African manufacturers will continue to remain above 75%. SACTWU undertakes to respect the confidentiality of any information disclosed in terms of this declaration. “
Source: Declaration of the retailers and SACTWU on the apparel industry.
Whilst there was a common acceptance of the principles outlined above retailers blanched at the restrictive quantitative expectations and did not sign the declaration. The reaction of retailers will be discussed in more detail a little later.
A factor elevating the tension between the trade union and retailers is the stellar results of the big retailers over the past few years.
As per the annual statements of the main protagonists, Edcon, Woolworths, Foschini, Mr Price and Truworths, earnings have surged with the combined profit of R8,3 billion between them for the period 2002 to 2004. It is interesting to note that on face value the only retailer currently sourcing in excess of 75% of product locally, Woolworths, posted the least impressive figures for the same period. (“The Shopsteward” Special Edition, 2005)
The allegations levelled are intuitive. Large business is profiting while local industry and jobs are lost.
COSATU continued it’s stated intention of mass action with a general strike in June, protesting the loss of employment in South Africa.
4.2. National Retailers Response
The retailers’ response has been supportive of the principles yet none, not even Woolworths, whose current local procurement tops 75%, have been prepared to sign the Declaration of the Retailers and SACTWU on the Apparel Industry. The reasons stated have been that doing so would restrict the signatories to the benefit of non-signatories, impacting relative competitiveness.
Michael Mark, CEO of Truworths, submitted the retailers view point in the eloquent article, We fight as Asian giants profit published in Business Day on 10 June 2005.
The article presents the case on behalf of all national retailers and contends the following:
That the current situation will not be solved overnight’ and is a result of increased and the flawed local business models, which operated on the premise of continued Rand weakness relative to international currencies.
That contrary to perception that each of the big four retailers, Edcon, Woolworths, Truworths and Foschini have in fact seen unit increases of local product over the past few years, but that consumers have become more discerning in their choices and that retailers are by definition merely conduits to satisfy this demand.
The imposition of increased protectionism would no doubt increase local production but at the expense of sales and ultimately reversing the current retail boom.
Highlights that the big four retailers targeted by the unions in fact import relatively far less proportionately and that the real issue is the illegal or under invoiced imports, which are finding their way into the market.
That the imposition of fixed import targets will in fact limit retailers’ competitiveness by limiting them to local procurement irrespective of capacity, technology or price, with expected adverse impact on the current consumer boom.
In conclusion it is offered that the big four retailers are prepared to work closely with national interest groups to address the situation, but that the current conflict provides no benefit as it does not address the real threat presented by China, but rather divides the industry.
Source: Michael Mark. (2005, 10 June). We fight as Asian giants profit.
4.3. Governments Response
The South African Government has been criticised for doing top little, specifically not invoking safeguard clause in the WTO regulations to utilise selected protectionism to protect the local industry.
According to Iqbal Sharma, the Chief Director of International Trade and Economic Development at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) this is not the case.
The affected companies have not utilised the avenues available, in application to the government and WTO for safeguards required. Sharma argues that the application fee (R100,000.00) is not unrealistic given the severity of the situation and that rather than working with SACTWU, companies affected have been hesitant to reveal the necessary company information.
It is held that unlike their European Union counterparts who have invoked protection on 50 lines, the South African sector wants protection “from everything”.
The real issue lies, it is argued, in that the sector aware of the liberalisation of trade from 1993, has been “taken by surprise” this year and is restricted by having outdated processes and products.
The government does however accede that given the scale of the problem intervention is necessary and has committed to assist in the developing a competitive regional system and utilising the opportunities presented through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
Source: Dasnois, Alide. (2005, May 10). DTI throws ball back in clothing and textile industry’s court.
4.4. China’s Response
As would be expected the response from the Chinese is defensive. China’s Economic and Commercial advisor to South Africa, Ling Guiru, states that any move to restrict trade by the South African government would violate the WTO free trade agreements. He points out that should China be targeted it would merely be replaced by other countries such as India and Pakistan.
The Chinese sentiment can be best expressed in quoting Guiru: “The success of the Chinese textile and clothing industry can be attributed to its positive response and readjustment in the face of difficulties, instead of flinching and resorting to self-protection.”
It is clear that China will continue to pursue its current strategy and that any response needs to be internal and systemic if the challenge is to be met.
Source: No author specified (2005, June 30). Chinese imports affects SA clothing industry.
5. POLICY SUGGESTIONS
It must be accepted that the current globalisation trend impacting the sector is not only set to continue but will no doubt accelerate in future.
Hence in addressing the current issues faced by the Clothing, Footwear and Textiles Industries measures aimed at stalling international trade alone are not sustainable and will under best case scenarios only create short-term breathing space.
The suggestions that follow consider short-term measures only in the context of enabling the industry the time necessary to address the systemic realities posed by the global market it now operates in.
5.1. Short Term Measures
5.1.1. Consensus must be achieved!
In order for anything constructive to emerge from the suggestions to follow it is critical that the various stakeholders, Government, Labour Representations, Industry Bodies and Retailers present a unified and congruent position. In order to provide the appropriate platform, the repositioning of NEDLAC as an effective dialogue and negotiation vehicle is key! In this regard considerable effort and commitment is required to re-elevate the profile of the forum to previous levels of significance.
5.1.2. Short-Term Protectionism is key
By necessity the initial focus of short-term measures must be on providing temporary protection from the rampant increase in imports from especially China. The WTO regulations, under the China protocol, enable countries where Chinese imports threaten the survival of local industry to invoke safeguards. These safeguards take the form of capped year on year growth rates limited to 7.5% and have been utilised by several countries such as Turkey, to enable local industry additional time to adjust. The capped increase of 7.5% valid until 2008, is significant when contrasted against the current growth trends topping 100%, although some will argue that given the past two years growth the base is already to high.
Whilst these measures appear intuitive, WTO regulations make the application process complex and expensive.
In order for applications to stand up to WTO regulations at least 25% of companies (not representative bodies) manufacturing a particular line must submit individual applications.
Given the current lack of consensus, logistically a tri-partheid alliance represented through NEDLAC would be required to provide significant support in removing bureaucratical bottlenecks. This is especially relevant in that the measures given the nature of the process take between 6 and 9 months to implement. Urgency is thus critical if the current import base is to be prevented from escalating to a point where the restrictions lose their relevance as imports normalise.
5.1.3. Stem illegal and under-invoiced imports
The imposition of trade restrictions is meaningless if the current inflow of illegal and under-invoiced imports continues. As such the government must improve current custom controls to enable the measures pursued in temporary restriction of trade to be successful.
5.1.4 Outcome of Short Term Measures
In the event that the three preceding measures are implemented successfully, a sound base is created to address the long-term structural changes required. As stated at the outset these measures will only influence the industry in the short term, as they do not address the fundamental reality that in order to survive the local industry must become more competitive.
5.2. Longer Term Interventions
Whilst the short-term interventions are critical in creating room for the industry to readjust, permanent structural changes must be effected in order to position the sector competitively once the temporary measures come to an end. In this regard the following measures are suggested:
5.2.1. Industry assistance
The increased competition of the past few years has negatively impacted the financial position of many firms in the sector. In contrast many of the adjustments required by companies relate to improving processes and technology. As such there is a requirement that monetary assistance be made available to the organisations to enable them to retool where necessary.
Given the financial realities, which currently exist the sector, it is unlikely that private financial institutions would provide such funding. In the event that funding is provided it is likely to be prohibitive as banks adjust rates to risk. It follows that support should be provided by the state and conceivably should take the form of low or nil interest loans to those companies identified.
Encouraging longer-term investment is a little more complex. It would not be prudent in the medium term to, in addition to the financial assistance detailed above, encourage large-scale expansion as the short-term measures must by definition end, once again putting pressure on the industry as a whole. Rather investment should only be encouraged in only certain circumstances where benefits such as scale are expected to position the initiatives positively in the future.
5.2.2. Reduce raw material prices
The current commitment to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) trade agreement on the import of cotton is restrictive. Whilst regional co-operation is critical as is the case with the industry in question, the agricultural sector must itself be competitive internationally.
Access to cheaper more competitive inputs is critical to overall competitiveness.
5.2.3. Relaxation of current labour legislation
It is clear that the current labour legislation while an excellent example of worker protection places significant restrictions on industry especially labour intensive variants such as Clothing, Footwear and Textiles.
The impact is certainly not isolated to any sector but requires broader intervention to enhance employment across the economy. This has been the focus of significant debate of late.
The ANC has released a discussion document, which proposes actively pursuing a dualistic labour market characterised by relaxing labour restrictions on a segmented approach. This is based on analysis of Europe’s Marshall plan, the East Asian development plan and the EU integration plan.
Measures such as this are key in addressing not only the broader employment issues but certainly in reducing the cost of labour input in the sector. It must however be approached cautiously to ensure fairness and avoid exploitation.
5.2.4. Increase trade opportunities
The medium term exploitation of market advantages gained through the negotiation of favourable trade agreements such as the EU Free Trade Agreement and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is key.
Where possible companies should be enabled through information dissemination and assistance to pursue these markets in an attempt to gain critical mass and economies of scale necessary to be globally competitive.
Given the favourable sentiment, especially evident in the commitments from the recent G8 Conference, further favourable trade agreements should be actively pursued by South Africa.
In addition to negotiating external trade agreements the expansion of current EPZ’s such as COEGA would provide further opportunities to improve especially cost competitiveness.
5.2.5. Repositioning of the industry model
The Chinese model is based on volume, volume and more volume. Competing with the model directly may all other measures aside, remains difficult. The reaction should perhaps be more of a flanking strategy with local industry pursuing lower volume more niche-oriented markets where flexibility is key.
Ultimately this appears to be the only sustainable positioning strategy, as out competing the Chinese given their government support and questionable labour standards does not appear likely.
5.2.6. Skills, technology and process improvements
In support of all the above initiatives it is key that the industry must be supported by assistance in upliftment of skills, the better utilisation of technology and revising processes to increase productivity.
In this regard the government and representative bodies have a key role to play. Individual companies are often of a scale, which cannot support the cost of the initiatives required to effect repositioning of the above dimensions. The introduction of public programmes to assist is thus vital.
This would extend beyond the boundaries of the sector itself into the provision of adequate supply chain logistics, promoting sourcing of government procurement locally and developing consumer awareness around Proudly South African country of origin.
5.2.7. Outcome of longer-term initiatives
The key measure of the longer-term success is ultimately the ability of the industry to compete with global players. This does, as discussed above, not imply that local industry will necessarily be cost competitive on a volume basis with global player such as China but that discrete markets will be serviced in which the companies can compete.
The creation of said markets is however not enough. The industry must adjust (and quickly at that) to become more productive in all aspects.
In considering the evidence above a picture emerges of a sheltered industry, which through years of protection has progressively become less and less competitive – only to be thrust harshly into the direct path of growing international trade and competition.
The reaction of stakeholders has been without exception vociferous but continues to lack the focus and congruency necessary to adapt to and meet the challenges necessary to survive.
Where to from here?
The question resurfaces repeatedly and certainly the call for increased protection and similar defensive measures has merits. However it is clear that to survive the industry will need not only to improve its current model but also adjust its focus fundamentally.
The alternative is extinction, a possibility, which at this point certainly does not seem remote. The time has come for a unified effort by all stakeholders if the situation is to be salvaged, question remains given the fragmented state of the industry, is this possible?
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