Pandemic-related logistics and supply chain disruptions, order declines, exorbitant freight costs, networking issues, and labor shortages have also hit the Mauritian apparel sector hard. Speaking to Textile Network, Geerish Bucktowonsing, Director of Industry of the Economic Development Board (EDB) puts the overall export decline in the Mauritian manufacturing sector at 15% year-on-year in 2022. As a result of the crisis, Hong Kong-based Esquel Group, the world's largest full-line manufacturer of woven shirts, shut down manufacturing facilities in the People's Republic of China, Malaysia, and even the one in "Mu," the affectionate nickname of the people here in everyday language. This not only cost several thousand jobs but also had a severe impact on the mood in the industry.
Crisis-proofAs a strong pillar of the Mauritian economy, the textile and especially the clothing sector has nevertheless been able to hold its own, most recently (2021) accounting for around 47.3% of total exports, thus representing the country's largest export sector with a share of GDP of 3.5%, according to the EDB director. Whereas in our on-site research last in 2017 (see Textile Network 2-2017, page 24 ff) around 616 companies still employed around 79,500 people, today there are probably a total of around 535 companies and 35,000 employees in the manufacturing industry. Of these, around 20,000 are Mauritians and around 15,000 are foreign workers. This is because, at the latest with the end of the pandemic and thus also the reawakening of the tourism industry, the sector is finding it difficult to recruit employees in the country.
Despite all adversities, some partly fully integrated or pure apparel companies such as Aquarelle Clothing, Floréal Knitwear/Ciel Textil, Firemount Textiles, Tropic Knits, Real Garments, or Wensum have succeeded in positioning themselves as an attractive sourcing niche through agile market response, quality-assuring processes, partly substantial investments in technology, and above all in employee qualification. Production is generally based on full-package service for international brands, retail chains, and designer labels in the USA and Europe. Among them are Armani, Benetton, Burton, Calvin Klein, Diesel, Esprit, Guess, Levi's, Marks & Spencer, River Island, Tommy Hilfiger, Topshop, and Zara.
In addition, the free trade zones (Export Processing Zones - ECB) granted to Mauritius by Unido offer significant investment incentives for investors from home and abroad.