Cablegate: Textile Manufacturers: Agoa Will Not Save Us

Published: Wed 19 Nov 2003 10:39 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (SBU) Summary: Nigerian textile manufacturers are
uniformly bleak about the prospects that AGOA alone will
bring about a substantial increase in their apparel or
textile trade. Nigeria's industry is not competitive, and it
is in decline. Various industry representatives told Lagos
and Abuja Econoffs in late October and early November that
additional major investments are unlikely. They said the GON
has failed to provide the infrastructure necessary for the
industry to succeed and has no realistic plans for taking
advantage of AGOA. According to these representatives, AGOA
itself was flawed in that (a) it failed to provide certainty
that benefits will be extended long enough for investors to
recoup their investments and (b) it omitted from AGOA
benefits the direct export to the U.S. of cotton yarn and
gray cloth, Nigeria's principal textile products. The
representatives were generally skeptical about the
possibilities of developing a domestic apparel industry
capable of taking advantage of AGOA. All the textile
representatives we interviewed showed a fair to sophisticated
understanding of existing AGOA legislation, and several were
familiar with AGOA proposals under consideration in
Washington. End summary.
Textile industry not competitive
2. (SBU) Over the last few years, according to J. P.
Olarewaju, Executive Director of the Nigerian Textile
Manufacturers Association (NTMA), many of Nigeria's textile
plants have permanently shut down. Since 1994, the year
Olarewaju took office, NTMA membership has declined from 124
members to 60. The industry has shed over 60,000 of its
140,000 jobs in Nigeria (comment: not as a result of improved
efficiency). Olarewaju sees no prospects on the horizon for
an improvement of the industry's future.
3. (SBU) At Nigerian Textile Mills' textile plant in Ikeja
Industrial Estate outside Lagos, the machinery sits idle.
Olatunde Atanda, Assistant General Manager of Operations for
NTM, explained that in Nigeria today, most textile plants
operate with equipment that is at least 20 years old. This
is true even in the case of "modern" plants, such as that run
by NTM competitor Churchgate. In NTM's case, the equipment
is 38 years old. Replacement is expensive, and investors are
reluctant to put money into an industry that most believe is
faltering. Atanda said the high volume of illegal imports
had forced NTM to suspend operations, but he hopes to resume
production at the Ikeja plant by the end of the year.
4. (SBU) Atanda told us that these factors -- combined with
30 percent commercial interest rates (compared to 5-7
percent in ASEAN countries), frequent GON tariff policy
changes, and social and political instability -- produced
gloomy prospects for the Nigerian textile industry. High
wages relative to ASEAN and other competing nations and the
lack of attention in Nigeria to workers' quality of life have
added to these problems.
5. (SBU) N. K. Janardhanan, a plant manager at
part-Indian-owned Afprint, echoed Atanda's complaints.
Afprint's production of printed fabrics has declined
significantly, owing largely to rising manufacturing costs
and an influx of cheaper goods from ASEAN countries. The
plant today produces only 1.8 million meters of cloth per
month, down from 3 million a few years ago; it is producing
at only 60 percent capacity. Afprint exports some of its
cotton yarn and gray cloth to Europe (primarily Italy, Spain
and Portugal), but entering the U.S. market is virtually
impossible. AGOA, he said, makes no provision for export of
these goods directly to the U.S. Janardhanan believes that,
without such provision, Nigerian goods are simply not
competitive, even when subject to relatively low U.S. tariffs.
Smuggled imports crushing Nigerian textiles
6. (SBU) P. K. Kakaraddi, Executive Director of Indian-owned
Churchgate's textile division, explained that the Nigerian
textile industry is being crushed by smuggled imports (the
GON re-introduced a ban on imports of printed fabric in
September 2002, but textile imports cross Nigeria's porous
borders in large quantities). Nationwide, he said, Nigerian
textile plants, including Churchgate, are operating at 60 to
70 percent capacity; most need to operate at about 95 percent
utilization to realize a profit.
7. (SBU) Kakaraddi said 65 percent of Nigerian textile
production is sold domestically, while about 35 percent is
exported, most of it to neighboring countries. He went on to
say that with an estimated 16,000 containers of textiles
entering Nigeria illegally each year, Nigerian companies'
share of the domestic market is shrinking fast. The Nigerian
industry is not competitive - a fact all our interlocutors
acknowledged - and cannot compete with imports from abroad,
absent existing protective tariffs. Even African print
fabrics can be produced more cheaply abroad, and imports
continue to undercut Nigerian manufacturers of what was once
a niche product.
8. (SBU) NTM's Atanda and his colleagues from other companies
were particularly pessimistic about new investment saving the
industry, saying that neither Nigerian nor international
investors are likely to sink money into Nigerian-owned
textile plants. Atanda, a former member of the Ministry of
Commerce's AGOA Advisory Board, explained that the GON has
ignored the textile industry since the discovery of oil.
Nigeria's electric utility, NEPA, was incapable of providing
the needed power for textiles production, and NEPA's plans to
build additional generating capacity are at this stage viewed
skeptically. Other textile manufacturers have complained to
us that fuel oil for their factories' own electricity
generators - a less than satisfactory alternative to the
power grid - is often in short supply, so even this option is
stymied. (Comment: Fuel oil availability may improve with
petroleum products downstream deregulation, but electricity
will almost undoubtedly remain an uncertain and high-cost
factor for Nigeria's textile industry. End comment.)
9. (SBU) Moreover, the GON, Atanda complained, has no grading
system for Nigerian cotton, and most Nigerian farmers
therefore produce low quality, short fiber varieties. NTM
and Afprint operate their own in-country cotton farms and
ginneries, but most textile mills import most of their cotton
from neighboring countries.
Textile manufacturers agree: AGOA not likely to help
--------------------------------------------- -------
10. (SBU) Atanda and the Manufacturers' Association's
Olarewaju complained that the GON has provided no
infrastructure and has no effective program in place for
taking advantage of AGOA. Atanda added that GON presidential
AGOA advisor Gladys Sasore, while clearly a capable woman in
other fields, had no understanding of the textile industry.
(Comment: We agree with this assessment. End comment.)
11. (SBU) All our interlocutors agreed that AGOA was far from
certain to produce benefits for the Nigerian textile
industry. Kakaraddi explained that, at least in the case of
Churchgate, potential investors (most of whom would likely be
from India) would want to know that AGOA benefits would be
extended long enough for their investments to be recouped.
Kakaraddi explained that major retooling would be necessary
for Nigerian textiles to compete effectively in the U.S. He
pointed out that Nigerian textiles, which are exported
duty-free and without quota to the EU, are only just able to
compete with products from more distant ASEAN countries.
Under these conditions, potential investors would want AGOA
to give them a relative advantage for at least 5 years,
preferably longer, before making significant capital
12. (SBU) Olarewaju echoed Janardhanan's complaint that AGOA
excludes Nigerian exports of cotton yarn and gray cloth, the
Nigerian textile industry's main products. At the same time,
Olarewaju was not at all sure Nigeria can produce acceptable
quality yarn and fabric cheaply enough to compete in U.S.
markets even if the items were permissible AGOA exports.
Nigerian cotton is in many cases contaminated by tiny fibers
from cotton pickers' polyethylene bags, and yarn made from
this cotton must be sold abroad as discounted non-dying yarn.
13. (SBU) Atanda and Kakaraddi both pointed out that Nigeria
also has no organized apparel industry - most garments are
produced by a cottage industry - and that developing one
would take several years. Such development would require
investors confident of recouping their money. Kakaraddi
suggested that Nigeria concentrate first and foremost on
increasing spinning capacity in the textile industry and then
think about apparel.
14. (SBU) Olarewaju said AGOA was unlikely to benefit
Nigeria. He was aware of only two companies, United Nigeria
Textiles and Afprint, that have expressed interest in
expanding into apparel in order to take advantage of AGOA's
apparel benefits. Neither, though, seemed to him to have the
know-how, and neither was likely to be able to compete
without low-interest loans from a government bank.
Conclusion: Not much hope for Nigerian textiles
--------------------------------------------- --
15. (SBU) Comment: Based on our conversations, we conclude
that (a) the exclusion of cotton yarn and fabric exports to
the U.S. prevents most Nigerian textile manufacturers from
taking advantage of AGOA, (b) current AGOA benefits are
probably not sufficient to attract investors to Nigeria and
(c) potential investors in any event are likely to remain
wary of an industry whose owners believe is on a slippery
slope to extinction. The exception to (c) might be select
foreign investors that already foreign-owned firms like
Churchgate hope to attract. We note in this connection that
two Chinese-owned and operated textile plants in the northern
state of Kaduna are reportedly operating at a profit. End
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