Record number of T-shirts entering the Netherlands

© Hollandse Hoogte
During the first eight months of 2018, the Netherlands imported 213 million T-shirts, singlets and other vests of cotton. This is the largest quantity ever recorded and approximately 2.5 times more than in 1998. The total value of clothing imports between January and August amounted to 7.6 billion euros, 8 percent more than in the same period one year previously. This is reported by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) on the basis of new research into the international clothing trade.

(English subtitles available)

Slightly more than half of all imports of cotton singlets and other vests is destined for the Dutch market. The remainder is re-exported to other countries. Hardly any cotton vests are manufactured domestically. During the first eight months of 2018, around 110 million vests were available for domestic use (by both households and companies), which is just under the record level in 2006. The quantity has more than doubled over the past two decades.

In 2017, a total of 129 million vests entered the Dutch market; on average, nearly 8 per inhabitant. This was still 4 for every Dutch inhabitant in 1998.

Imports of T-shirts, singlets and other vests of cotton, first eight months (million pieces)
 Imports destined for domestic useImports destined for re-exports
19984735
19995141
20006345
20016246
20025846
20037144
20049153
20058854
200611254
200710762
200810871
20099384
20109793
201110196
20128986
20139885
2014105104
20158398
201678102
20179693
2018110103

Import price slightly higher than two decades ago

Last year, the Netherlands received 91 million vests directly from Bangladesh, which is therefore the main supplier. Other large producers of vests are China (supplied 21 million pieces), India and Turkey (both supplied 17 million pieces).

The average import price per vest exceeds 3 euros in 2018. With an import price of around 2 euros, vests manufactured in Bangladesh are considerably cheaper. Prices of vests from China (approx. 2.50 euros) are also lower than average, while vests from India were average-priced (around 5 euros) and those from Turkey more expensive than average (around 5 euros).

Vests from Bangladesh have increased by around 60 eurocents in price over the past two decades, whereas this year’s average import price is 20 eurocents higher relative to 1998.

Average import price of T-shirts, singlets and other vests of cotton (euros per piece)
 BangladeshAverage import priceOther countries
19981.382.973.49
19991.372.913.44
20001.523.163.64
20011.513.223.8
20021.453.063.62
20031.193.023.68
20041.22.853.42
20051.142.923.48
20061.332.933.47
20071.272.773.3
20081.292.663.22
20091.412.593.17
20101.592.583.03
20111.842.933.44
20121.93.063.64
20131.662.853.55
20141.772.663.29
20151.882.983.63
20161.872.983.68
20172.043.253.9
2018*23.163.74
*) first eight months of 2018

China main producing supplier of clothes

Imports of other clothing items are also up this year: 7.6 billion euros in the first eight months, i.e. 8 percent up on the previous year. Over half of it is sent directly from Asia to the Netherlands.

In 2017, the Netherlands imported 1.9 billion euros worth of clothing in total from China, versus 1.0 billion euros from Bangladesh. Imports of vests and trousers from Bangladesh were higher than from China. Other garments, such as sweaters, dresses, shirts, costumes and coats, on the other hand, were more likely to arrive from China. Turkey ranks third as non-EU clothing supplier (0.6 billion euros), followed by India and Vietnam. Import values from China and Bangladesh have increased more than sixfold over the past twenty years. Imports from Vietnam have more than quadrupled, while those from Turkey and India have more or less doubled.

Aside from imports directly coming from Asia, clothing enters the Netherlands via other EU countries. Part of this clothing has been manufactured in Asia as well; CBS does not have any figures on this ‘indirect’ import from Asia.

Import value of clothing (bn euros)
 19972017
China0.2991.934
Bangladesh0.1611.027
Turkey0.3380.592
India0.1480.334
Vietnam0.0690.301

Clothing industry much more important to Bangladesh than to China

Clothing exports constitute an important pillar of Bangladesh’s economy. For example, 82 percent of all Bangladesh exports consisted of clothing in 2016. This country has specialised in clothes manufacturing since 1980.

The clothing industry has smaller export shares in other larger clothing exporting countries, namely 8 percent in China, 7 percent in India, 11 percent in Turkey and 14 percent in Vietnam. Clothing exports have gradually become less important in these countries since the 1990s.

As regards Dutch imports from Bangladesh, clothing is leading as well. In 2017, 82 percent of total imports from Bangladesh consisted of clothing, far exceeding imports from China (5 percent), India (11 percent), Turkey (21 percent) and Vietnam (6 percent).

Share of clothing in total exports (%)
 BangladeshChinaIndiaTurkeyVietnam
19800985
19811997
198211077
1983310811
1984811918
19851791015
198627131117
198739151222
198832151120
198934161324
199038161426
199150171426
199250201628
199351201428
199450201525
199556161328
199652171326
19975617122615
19987416142614
19997015142514
20007914142413
20017814132112
20027813122216
20038112112117
2004761091816
2005741091614
2006701081414
200771971315
200876861014
200979971115
201077851114
201179851014
20127785913
201381851013
201481861113
201582871114
201682871114
Source: CBS, WTO