Turkey’s Textile and Garment Industry is in Crisis

Date: Friday, February 10, 2023
Source: Sourcing Journal

Amazon, H&M Group and Zara owner Inditex have rallied around the humanitarian crisis in Turkey and Syria following a pair of powerful earthquakes that rocked both countries on Monday, pulverizing buildings into rubble and killing at least 19,000 people as a bitter winter cold and electrical shortages continue to stymie rescue efforts.

On Tuesday, Amazon revealed that the first truckload of relief items that the online juggernaut is donating has departed its fulfillment center in Istanbul. The supplies, it wrote in a blog post, are on their way to Hatay, one of the 10 worst-hit provinces in southern and southeastern Turkey, and include heaters, blankets and other goods to “aid first responders and help victims stay warm amid frigid weather.”

A new donations page on the Amazon Turkey storefront amassed more than 5,000 items from customers within three hours of going live, the Everything Store said. As of Tuesday morning, all of Amazon’s nearly 2,000 workers in Turkey are safe and accounted for.

“We continue to be in contact with organizations on the ground and the Turkish government to learn more about what’s needed in areas impacted by the earthquake, and we will work with partners to deliver relief items and logistical support,” Amazon said.

Inditex, which also owns Bershka, Pull&Bear and others, said Wednesday that it has donated 3 million euros ($3.2 million) to the Red Crescent to support relief efforts. The Turkish arm of the humanitarian network has deployed manpower and equipment to the 10 provinces. In addition to providing necessities such as blankets, tarps, cooking kits and water, personnel on the ground are also contributing to search-and-rescue efforts, offering psychosocial assistance, distributing hot meals and transferring blood and plasma.

“Some of the major challenges for relief efforts include the difficulty in accessing certain affected areas, the disruption of telecommunications and the freezing temperatures that people have to face after their homes have been damaged or destroyed,” said the Spanish retailer, which has also been funding a Doctors Without Borders emergency unit on an “ongoing basis.” This group, it said, is already working to assist victims with medical care.

Inditex is also doling out 500,000 outerwear products to the Red Crescent and AFAD (Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency) with the help of its local suppliers. The first batches of these, it said, are already being dispatched to people affected by the earthquakes.

H&M Group also announced Wednesday that it is “working closely” with its local teams to “analyze the urgent needs.” The H&M, Cos and Monki owner said it is distributing winter garments as a “priority” to earthquake victims, as well as giving $100,000 to AFAD to aid its work in Turkey. The H&M Foundation, the Swedish retailer’s philanthropic arm, is also donating $500,000 to the Red Cross/Red Crescent and Save the Children to support their efforts in the region.

“Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the people impacted by the devastating earthquakes that have hit Türkiye and Syria,” H&M Group said in a statement, using Turkey’s official name. “Since Monday, our main priority has been the safety and health of our Turkish colleagues and their families.”

The Iskenderun port fire that destroyed hundreds of shipping containers in transit on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, has been extinguished again after previously doused flames reignited on Tuesday, the defense ministry said Wednesday. It remains unclear when regular operations will resume, though Turkish ships have been delivering aid materials to the port, one of two main container depots on the country’s southern coast, it said. Until the site undergoes a full inspection and is declared safe once more, major shipping firms will have to divert their vessels elsewhere in the region.

MSC, the shipping firm also known as Mediterranean Shipping Company, wrote in an email that none of its vessels have been affected and that it will be diverting shipments, including all bookings meant for Iskenderun, to Tekirdag unless customers inform it differently. All booking cancellations, amendments and changes of destination, as well as demurrage at destination will be free of charge for Iskenderun bookings throughout the month of February, it said.

“It is undetermined when operations at the port of Iskenderun will restart, but we will do our best to minimize the impact on our customers and their supply chains. We will communicate in due course as soon as we have further information,” MSC said. “MSC extends its deepest sympathies to all those affected by this tragedy. Our thoughts are with the families, loved ones and the people of Türkiye during these challenging times.”

Ramazan Kaya, president of the Turkish Clothing Manufacturers Association, told Sourcing Journal that it’s still too early to determine the impact of the earthquakes on the country’s garment sector, one of the world’s top exporters.

“Even though there is no big damage at the factory level since they are relatively new buildings, we have limited information about the situation of our employees and their families due to the destruction and damage in the residential areas,” Kaya said. “We hope that the situation will become clear as soon as possible.”

While the head offices of most textile companies are in Istanbul on the other side of Turkey, the areas surrounding the epicenters are chockablock with production plants. Orta Anadolu, for instance, has a mill in Kayseri. Calik Denim has one in Malatya, and Bossa one in Adana. These so far appear intact.

Orta Andolu told Sourcing Journal that it will be continuing production and does not expect any delays in its operations, though its “thoughts go out to the people and families affected by the tragedy.” For Calik Denim, its focus is on supporting those in need in Malatya. “After the earthquake risk analysis…we welcome people who are in need in the region, especially our employees, their families and relatives, in our mill and we work with strength 24/7,” a spokesperson said.

Bossa, too, will be continuing production, according to a disclosure to Borsa Istanbul, Turkey’s stock exchange. Rubenis Tekstil, which has production facilities in Sanliurfa, and Sasa Polyester, which has operations in Adana, also told Borsa Istanbul that they will carry on as usual.

Halit Gümüşer, managing director at Kipas Holdings, which operates Kipas Textiles in Kahramanmaraş, one of the impacted cities, said that the industry will have a better handle on the extent of the devastation next week.

“Depending on denim, non-denim fabrics, greige knit or woven fabrics or yarn, the situation is different,” he told Sourcing Journal. “But the main problem is labor. People are really in terrible condition. It will not be easy to find motivated people to work.”

Still, he’s hopeful. “Let’s hope we will recover quickly with help of all our apparel partners,” Gümüşer said. “It is time to show how deeply we unite. Since values and ethics becoming more important in textiles, I think this disaster is a perfect opportunity to show there are things more important than money or sales.”

For now, the sector is in triage mode. Some undamaged textile mills in Diyarbakir, for instance, are being used to house survivors as they pause production, according to Textilegence News Hub. Adana and Malatya are operating at 20 to 25 percent capacity, the outlet said, while in Sanliurfa, everything has been put on hold because employees can’t get to work. Damage to gas pipelines and electrical infrastructure could pose additional challenges for recovery.

Meanwhile, the Istanbul Textile and Apparel Exporters Association is asking for donations. Cash is urgently needed, but so are winter clothes, shoes, blankets, diapers, heaters and food.

“Türkiye was hit by massive earthquakes on Monday,” it said in a statement. “Thousands of people have died and unfortunately the death toll is rising. We extend our condolences to the families of those affected and wish quick recovery to all the injured.”

Turkey exports roughly $1 billion worth of textiles to the United States every year, according to the Istanbul Textile and Raw Materials Exporters Association. Europe, however, remains its biggest market, with ready-to-wear exports alone hitting $19.5 billion in the first 11 months of 2022, a 5.8 percent year-over-year increase, per Turkish Exporters Assembly data.

“Türkiye is a vital and growing partner for the U.S. apparel and footwear industries,” Steve Lamar, president and CEO of the American Apparel and Footwear Association, a trade group whose members include Gap Inc., H&M Group and J.Crew Group, told Sourcing Journal. “Our hearts go out to the victims—the individuals, families, and communities—of this terrible tragedy as we and our members look for ways to aid in relief and recovery efforts.”

The Fair Labor Association (FLA), a multistakeholder organization that promotes human rights in the workplace, has offered guidance for brands sourcing in Turkey. Those who source from one of the 10 affected provinces, in particular, should try to get in touch with their suppliers to understand the impact of the earthquakes on workers and factory structures, “even though doing so may be difficult.”

Brands should discuss with their suppliers their business continuity plans and provide technical assistance if necessary. They should also examine the timelines and delivery dates of existing orders, extend deadlines accordingly and clarify, where possible, key requirements their suppliers must meet in order to resume production, such as access to services and utilities and assurance of structural safety.

“Even if your suppliers are not located in one of the impacted cities, your suppliers might be working with some of the raw material and upper-tier suppliers from this region,” said the organization, whose roster includes Adidas, Patagonia and Reformation. “Therefore, FLA recommends checking with your direct supplier to ascertain the situation of your indirect suppliers.”

The Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI), another multistakeholder group, has also advised international buyers to “play a role in recovery, ensuring they engage and support their affected suppliers, workers, and their representatives, during this state of emergency.”

The ETI, whose members include Asos, Bestseller and Inditex, said it will be engaging with company, trade union and NGO members to assess the impacts of the disaster on workers and supply chains.

“We will develop recommendations for effective business response which should include enhanced human rights due diligence and responsible business practices,” it added. “Our thoughts and sympathies are with all those affected, as both countries work to free survivors from the rubble and rebuild their lives.”


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