There were 257 Turkish exhibitors at the Heimtextil 2018.
There were 257 Turkish exhibitors at the Heimtextil 2018.

Cut off from its traditional regional markets which face civil war, terror attacks and political instability, Turkey’s textile industry is looking for “greener pastures” outside its traditional radar – in markets of Asia, Western Europe and North America.

In an interview with the CTA at the recent Heimtextil 2018 trade fair of Frankfurt – the world’s largest event for the home and contract textile industry – Osman Nuri Canik, the vice president of UIB, the Turkish acronym of the Bursa-based apex Turkish textile exporters’ association, acknowledged that the situation in Turkey’s neighbourhood -- Syria, Iraq, Lebanon but, partly, also in Russia – had impacted Turkish textile exports.

As a result, we are trying to break into the lucrative markets of Asia.  But we are also looking at Western Europe and the USA, which have a large middle-class consumer base,” Canik noted.

While Turkey tries to tap new export markets, Canik pointed out that Turkey itself was a good domestic market, particularly for suppliers of textile machinery, parts and components.  “Foreign suppliers of such products can also identify opportunities in Turkey.  As Turkey’s textile exports grow, the country’s textile manufacturing companies will have to upgrade their machinery, parts and components, as well as the manufacturing processes,” he said.

Turkey’s textile exports surged in 2017. The overall textile products’ category, which includes not only home and technical textiles but also fabric and garments, touched a whopping US$157 billion in total exports; home-textiles’ exports alone amounted to US$2.7 billion in 2017,  while garment exports amounted to US$17 billion in the same year. “Our dream is to reach US$500 billion by the year 2023 when Turkey celebrates its 100th anniversary of the Republic,” Canik observed.

Turkish textile companies are also being encouraged to consider technical collaboration with foreign partners; one German exhibitor, preferring to remain anonymous, admitted that he was negotiating with a Turkish company for technical collaboration.

According to Canik, who also owns a textile company called Elvin Tekstil San. VETIC A.S. in Bursa, Turkish textile companies should also exhibit at other smaller, but highly specialized trade fairs, in Asia, adding that Turkish upholstery suppliers, for example, could participate in Malaysia’s international furniture fair held in Kuala Lumpur.

Murat Atilla Bulut, a senior executive at the Istanbul-based TETSIAD, the Turkish Home-Textile Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association, also urged Turkish upholstery manufacturers to work with furniture suppliers from Malaysia and Indonesia.

Turkey started to aggressively look for markets for its textile products in 2016 when South Europe – Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy - plunged into an economic crisis.  Russia was hit by international sanctions combined by a sharp drop in oil prices, constricting its purchasing capability. Turkey itself was caught in a political turmoil, shaken by a failed military coup attempt. “However, the mood is different today in Turkey.  We are upbeat about our economic recovery,” averred Canik who emphasized that Turkey was “absolutely safe” for buyers to visit.

Osman Nuri Canik, the vice president of UIB.Bursa, the country’s textile hub, is planning to set up an ambitious 4.0 industrial production zone called Teknosab on 8,500 acre land and deploying robots and automation. Of the 257 Turkish exhibitors at the Heimtextil 2018, more than 100 exhibitors were from Bursa.

Teknosab is being created in coordination of the Ministry of Industry, and the Bursa Chamber of Commerce.  Canik highlighted the fact that foreign companies can invest in this zone where prices for setting up business would be “very reasonable”, adding that Bursa alone has about 5,000 textile companies.

Touting the “high quality” of Turkish textile products, Canik claimed that many European brands subcontracted their requirements from Turkish suppliers and then marketed these products under their own brand.

Turkey’s textile industry is trying to assert its position amid fierce global competition by focusing on upper-end products and serving niche market segments which, Turkish experts maintain, have been largely unaffected by the economic crises that adversely impacted the low-end market segments in recent years.

Turkey’s textile industry embarked on a restructuring process five years ago necessitated by the fierce competition from Asian and South European suppliers, and the economic crisis in Europe.

Although Turkish manufacturers of low-end products in recent years were hardly able to keep up with competitors from Eastern Europe and Asia, they told CTA that they were changing their strategy by offering better quality upper-end products. “We have realized that the best way to beat the competition is to offer innovative and better quality products … we also believe that branding will help us assert our position in the international markets,” said a representative of an Istanbul-based textile mill, adding that Turkish textile and clothing suppliers were “inspired” by the Italian textile industry’s successful high-end branded clothing and textiles.

Turkish exhibitors at trade fairs such as Heimtextil (Frankfurt) and the TexWorld (New York) saw “good times ahead”, pointing out the declining cost advantages accruing from Chinese-manufactured goods and the increase in demand in the industrial countries could enhance the attractiveness of Turkish high-quality products; European markets were, meanwhile, recovering from the past financial crisis, and the market in Germany was indeed “very attractive”.

The Turkish textile industry’s restructuring process had strengthened its textile industry’s prowess in manufacturing denim materials and products, home textiles, and producing ecologically cultivated cotton. Indeed, some 40 percent of the world’s ecologically cultivated cotton presently comes from Turkey.

Turkey is Europe’s largest textile producer and is an important cotton and fibre producer, according to the Uludag Textile Exporters’ Association (UIB).

One of the world’s largest filament producing companies, Korteks Mensucat San, which is based in Bursa and is part of the Zorlu corporate group, has a daily filament capacity of 580 tons and daily yarn capacity of 450 tons.

Turkey’s domestic market is the most important consumer of our products, but we also have a large foreign customer base. We sell some 80% of our production in the domestic market while the remaining 20% is exported to foreign markets. Our exports comprise, mainly, upper-end products meant largely for the automobile industry.  The European crisis did not negatively impact our exports. Germany is the largest foreign market for filaments,” said Necat Altin, the general manager of Korteks Mensucat San in an interview with the CTA.

Korteks also manufactures sports clothing, home textiles, clothing for daily use, etc. 

According to representatives of Turkish textile companies, Turkey ranks second globally in investments in large circular knitting machinery as well as open-end rotors; third in long-staple spindles; fourth in short-staple spindles; and fifth in shuttle-less looms.

The Switzerland-based International Textile Manufacturers’ Federation (ITMF) reported in the past that Turkey makes considerable investments in state-of-the-art textile machinery, particularly in spinning machinery; Turkey buys from Swiss, German and Italian textile machinery suppliers.