Ramatex Exports Take a Knock

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The export value of textile goods produced by Ramatex Textile Company has decreased due to the pullout of two of the company’s major buyers since last year. While the export value decreased by 37 percent in 2005, this year it was expected to drop by a further 28 percent. Ramatex General Manager B.K. Ong told New Era yesterday Oshkosh and Sears, two of their biggest buyers, had pulled out causing the export figures to drop. “Some of the buyers pulled out and the quantities involve are quite big and business became lesser,” he said. He explained that this was due to environmental issues, competition and other labour related matters in which the textile company had been involved. Ong said there were so many factors at play considering that there is stiff competition on the world market where productivity and efficiency are the rules of the game. He also hinted that buyers preferred sources where there were no problems, in an apparent reference to problems that the garment manufacturing company has had with the workers’ union pertaining to workers’ wages and working conditions. At the moment the garment sector, which pivots around Ramatex, derives its most benefits under the AGOA provision, with other main exports to the US being energy related products, minerals and base metals, textiles and apparel. In June this year, the Norwegian government withdrew its investment from Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retail store, for serious and systematic abuses of human rights. It emerged that part of the cause was the treatment of workers at Ramatex, a Malaysian-owned company that makes products for western corporations including Nike, Puma, Wal-Mart, Sears and Otto Versand. A press statement on the matter at that time said: “The main suppliers to Wal-Mart in these countries (Namibia, Malawi and Madagascar) are Asian-owned textile factories. The Council is aware of a report dealing with working conditions at such factories in these countries. Here too there are consistent accounts of long working days, low wages, injuries due to lack of protective equipment and various forms of abuse and discrimination,” the council further reported. Ong said Ramatex was maintaining a relationship with the two companies in order to get them back when they regain confidence in the supplier. Namibia is among three SACU countries which have recorded declines as far as trade with the USA under the AGOA provision is concerned. AGOA trade data indicates that Namibian exports under the textile and apparel sector decreased from US$39. 5 million to US$25.4 million from January to September 2006. The bulk of Namibia’s 2002 exports to the US consisted of energy-related products, followed by minerals and metals, textiles and apparel and agricultural products. Namibia qualified for the Wearing Apparel provisions of AGOA on December 3, 2001, although, commentators say, the country’s fledgling textile and garment manufacturing industry is yet to fully exploit the opportunities hereunder. Namibia was re-classified as a “Lesser Developed Country” in terms of AGOA, thereby extending AGOA’s textile sourcing provisions to this country, which has boosted the establishment of local garment production capacity as well as provided an incentive for local textile manufacturers to ready themselves for the post-2004 period.