Turkey: Ancient Crossroads, Modern Textiles


urkey, where Southeastern Europe meets Southwestern Asia, is a country with a population
of 71.1 million with a median age of 28.8 years. Turkey’s vibrant economy is facing the same
challenges as many other nations participating in the global economy. The textile industry has been
an important part of the Turkish economy, and some sources report textile and apparel operations
account for one-third of the country’s industrial employment.

Technical textiles have been a healthy and growing sector in the Turkish textile industry.
In a recent report prepared by the Research and Development Department of the Istanbul Textile and
Apparel Exporters Association (ITKIB), referencing data furnished by the Turkish Undersecretariat
of Foreign Trade, both annual imports and exports have grown substantially from 2000 through 2006.
The report cites rapid global growth in the technical and functional textile markets, with expected
increased importance for the next 15 to 20 years.

With the exception of imports in 2001, which fell 9.3 percent from an annual total of just
below $265 million in 2000, imports of technical textiles to Turkey have grown each year achieving
a level close to US$625 million in 2006. Germany, Italy, China, the United Kingdom and France
largely fulfill Turkey’s import consumption of technical textiles, while 15 countries fulfill close
to 85 percent of the Turkish import demand. Leading import products by US dollar value in 2006
include nonwovens and coated fabrics.

Turkish exports of technical textiles have more than doubled in the period from 2000 to
2006, increasing from US$405 million in 2000 to more than US$847 million in 2006. The top five
export markets in 2006 were Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom, with Germany
importing more than US$147 million worth of Turkish technical textiles.

Leading export products by dollar value in 2006 include flexible, intermediate bulk
containers of man-made textile materials and tire cord fabric.


As a portion of total Turkish exports of textiles and apparel, which ITKIB placed
at US$19.7 billion in 2006, the technical textiles sector is a small, but rapidly growing segment
of the industry. Turkish textiles in general face the same global challenges as many markets in the
world. Even with these pressures, textile sector exports, when separated from apparel, accounted
for approximately US$6.1 billion in 2006 — a 12.1-percent increase over 2005. Currently, exports
are led by cotton fabrics, knit fabrics, filament man-made fiber fabrics, staple man-made fiber
fabrics and filament man-made fiber yarns.


Istanbul’s famous Blue Mosque

With strong export-focused policies, the challenge to maintain this growth will
continue to mount. Although many countries have targeted technical textiles as an opportunity for
non-commodity-based growth, this focus offers the opportunity to leverage the highly skilled
textile manufacturing industry base of Turkey.

September/October 2007