The Baltic Course  

Latvia working by order

Laura Saule

Since 1994, the export of textiles has held stable second place in the external turnover of the country. As before, more than 90% of Latvia’s textile and sewing industry products are exported

The amount of exports increases from year to year, accounting for 177.46 million lats in 2001 (151.24 million lats in 1997). However, after the crisis in Russia, the structure of export has changed to the advantage of the EU. If in 1997, 59.1% was sent to the EU and 26.7% to CIS countries, then in 2001, these figures were 73.9% and 9.4%, respectively. 

Textile imports to Latvia are almost the same size as exports: in 2001, imports amounted to 163.35 million lats (123.71 million lats in 1997). In 2001 imports from the EU amounted to 69.9%, while the CIS countries supplied 4.4% of total imports, (69.9% and 9.6% in 1997 respectively). The main problem for the Latvian market is second hand clothes; only during last year, 9,000 tons worth 6 million lats were imported (at a rate of 83 santims per kilo).

Around 20 thousand people or 16% of all employed people in the country’s economy are employed in this field. 280 sewing companies are officially registered. In reality, 60 companies out of this number are in full operation, 30 of these can be called big companies. 20 enterprises have an annual turnover of over 1 million lats and the same amount in exportss. The market leader is a manufacturer of lady’s underwear, Liepaja-based company Lauma (turnover in 2001 – 19.04 million lats), leaving behind the knitwear company Ogre (18.87 million lats). 

Foreign investors are not very eager to put money in Latvian textile companies. The amount of local investments exceeds the amount of foreign investments 2.5 times. Since 1993, the amount of foreign investments in the textile industry amounted to only 25 million lats, 14 million lats of which were invested in Valmieras Stikla Skiedra (Valmiera fiberglass plant). The main investor for Latvian textile companies – Germany – has a share of 75% of all investments. Foreign capital in sewing companies adds to 5 million lats. Swedish capital has the largest share (33.1% in 2001). During recent years, Estonia is the second largest investor (25.7%).