MASERU — At last there is good news for Lesotho’s embattled textiles and clothing sector.
The sector which saw massive factory closures last year is finally on the path to recovery, according to the latest figures released by the Bureau of Statistics.
The report released a fortnight ago shows that the textile and clothing sector grew by a slight 0.4 percent in the first quarter of 2010.
The report says the slight increase in employment was due to large firms increasing their staff complement to meet rising demand.
“The first quarter of 2010 has shown a slight increase of 0.4 percent in the textiles and clothing industries due to an increase in employment in some of the big firms as opposed to a sharp decrease in employment during the fourth quarter of 2009 which was due to the closure of some of the firms,” said the bureau.
“The share of textiles and clothing industry in the total employment was 81.9 percent during the fourth quarter of 2009 (October — December) and 86.3 percent in the first quarter of 2010 (January-March), reflecting a 4.4 percentage point increase,” said the bureau.
The manufacturing sector is Lesotho’s biggest sector in terms of the number of people who are employed which currently stands at 42 197.
The textiles and clothing industry has the highest number of people employed with a total workforce of 36 472 followed by the leather and footwear industry with 3 058 workers.
The food and beverages sector employs about 1 023 people, according to the report.
The bureau said the industrial survey which is carried out quarterly covered a sample of establishments that are engaged in manufacturing activity in the country.
The first quarter covered the period between January and March this year.
The employment figures were however still lower than those recorded in 2009.
For instance, employment levels in the textiles sector in 2010 had declined by 6.6 percent from the figures recorded during the same period last year.
According to the bureau the textiles and clothing sector contributed 59.9 percent of the M105 461 000 generated by the manufacturing sector in the first quarter.
Food and beverages made up 17.6 percent of the total followed by ‘all other manufacturing’ with 11.8 percent and the leather and footwear industry contributing 10.7 percent.
“The share of textiles and clothing industry in wages and salaries is considerably lower than this sub-sector’s share of employment during the third and the fourth quarters of 2009 and the first quarter of 2010,” the bureau said.
The clothing sector is still not out of the woods, however.
There are still some uncertainties haunting the sector brought about by issues such as the expiry of the duty credit certificates.
The sector is also facing stiff competition from Asian countries such as China, Vietnam and Bangladesh.