Camtex exported about $615.30 million during the first quarter of 2023.

Export flows fell sharply during the first quarter of 2023, and the textile and clothing sector was not spared from the impact. The item had a drop of $103.6 million compared to the first three months of 2022, equivalent to 14%.

"Exports in the first quarter of 2023 register a decrease of 14%, if we compare them to the first quarter of 2022," confirmed this Wednesday the executive director of the Chamber of Textile, Clothing and Free Zones of El Salvador (Camtex).

Camtex indicated that the exports of the sector went from $718.92 million in the first quarter of 2022, to $615.30 million for the same period of 2023.

The executive director of the union, Patricia Figueroa, explained that the excess inventory, caused by the pandemic and the economic crises of recent years, was the cause of the low demand in the international market.

Figueroa pointed out that these reductions in the flow of merchandise shipments tend to affect jobs in the country. "It impacts employment, what is happening is natural," he said.

Despite the impact of the international market on the textile and clothing industry, Camtex highlights that this item continues to push the Salvadoran economy to the point that at the end of 2022 more than 76,152 jobs were generated, and $2,751.7 million were exported, 39% of all the merchandise that El Salvador sent abroad.

Among the most exported products during 2023, the textile and clothing sector covers four of the six positions that generated the highest sales.

The Camtex report, backed by statistics from the Central Reserve Bank (BCR), indicates that El Salvador exported $131.4 million in cotton T-shirts and $79.8 million in synthetic jackets for men or children.

While synthetic fiber T-shirts cover $66.8 million, and cotton sweaters and pullovers generated $46.5 million.

“The industry has a high level of resilience and put at any time, we have seen it through the years,” Figueroa said.

An improvement in 2024.
Although the results of the first quarter were something that the sector already expected, for the rest of the year the export trend could be downward, "it is very risky to give a percentage, it could be 10% (less)", estimated the executive director. Although she did not rule out, in a more positive scenario, that there are no rises or falls.

The picture could be different in 2024, when excess inventory is no longer an issue. 

For her part, the president of the Corporation of Exporters of El Salvador (Coexport), Silvia Cuéllar, indicated this Wednesday that the low demand for exports could be maintained during the first semester and improve during the second half of the year.

Cuéllar assures that by the end of 2023 the companies could return to export levels similar to those of 2022.

Despite the uncertainty of this 2023, the outlook could change if future investments were made in El Salvador.

Camtex confirmed that the country has received visits from companies from both the textile sector and other industries.

"We continue working with an industry that remains stable, but hopefully if there are new investments we can grow," said the Camtex spokesperson.

Industry Overview
The textile and clothing industry reported a reduction in exports to March 2023.

1.- Main destination
Companies in the textile and clothing industry sent 75.2% of merchandise to the United States. 19.8% went to Central America.

2.- Source of employment
Until February 2023, the textile and clothing sector employs more than 73,716 workers, 57% of these women and 43% men.

3.- How to grow?
Camtex assured that companies should promote long-term contracts and benefit from incentives and access to financing.