The Belgian textile industry in 2022

Textile activity hit by energy crisis

The year 2022 started well with sales up 12.6% in value during the first quarter. However, the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis that followed abruptly ended the recovery that began in the second quarter of 2022, after the coronavirus crisis. Textile sales increased by 10.3% in 2022 compared to 2021, to 5.1 billion euros. As sales prices rose 12.9%, production in volume terms fell 2.6%.

Sales are 16.4% above pre-corona levels in value terms. In volume terms, textile activity in 2022 was 4.3% higher than pre-corona pandemic levels.

Almost all product groups experienced an increase in sales in 2022. Spinning (incl. flax fibre preparation), textile finishing, synthetic and artificial fibres and yarns, and technical textiles grew by more than 10%. In contrast, in weaving the increase in sales remained very limited (+2.5%). In volume terms, sales went down sharply in weaving (-18.5%). Sales of the main carpet product group declined 0.3% in value and 9.3% in volume. Knitted fabrics experienced a 3.9% decline in turnover. A number of companies temporarily shut down or even permanently closed production lines in the second half of 2022.

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Evolution of turnover per product group

Evolution in volume 22/21 Evolution in value 22/21 Turnover in billion € 2022
Yarns (incl. preparation) 15,40 % 33,0 % 0,5
Fabrics -18,5 % 2,5 % 0,5
Textile finishing 5,10 % 11,1 % 0,2
Carpets -9,3 % -0,3 % 1,4
Synthetic and artificial fibres and filament yarns 10,5 % 22,9 % 0,5
Knitted fabrics -3,9 % 0,1
Technical textiles and others 13,8 % 2
TEXTILE INDUSTRY ** -2,6 % 10,3 % 5,2

* Provisional data / ** Textile industry nace 13 + 20.60 / Source: FPS Economy, VAT returns

Textile exports experienced increase

75% of Belgian textile sales come from exports. In 2022, textile exports increased by 4.9% compared to 2021. Textile imports (including transit and excluding woven and knitted clothing) increased by 10.1%. The surplus on the Belgian textile trade balance was 2.3 billion euros. Exports of the two main product groups remained stable: technical textiles +0.1% (export share 34.4%) and interior textiles +0.9% (export share 29.3%).

Internal market is main outlet

Approximately 64.5% of total Belgian textile exports go to EU. Deliveries there increased by 1.8%. However, this hides divergent trends among member states. On the French market, the most important export market with an 17.8% share of total Belgian textile exports, textile deliveries declined by 1.4%. Exports to Germany, the second most important export market with a 14.3% share, increased by 7.3%. Higher textile sales were also achieved in our third market, the Netherlands (9.8% share) (+3.5%).


Exports outside the EU increased

Textile exports outside the EU grew by 11%. The most important export market outside the EU is the United Kingdom (10% share), where textile deliveries increased by 1.2% in 2022. However, during the period 2015-2021, textile exports to the UK decreased by 31.8%. Brexit troubles, Covid-19, economic malaise and a much less favourable pound/euro exchange rate are the reasons why textile exports to the UK are now at a lower level than before the Brexit referendum.

However, exports to most regions outside the EU increased significantly. Our exports increased to Switzerland (+19.8%) and to Turkey (+35.1%). Textile exports to North America rose by 6.1%. However, this is the result of rising exports to the US (+9.8%; 3.6% share) and a decline to Canada (-12%; 0.6% share). Exports to South America increased by 13.2%, but amount to only a 1.3% share. Textile exports to the Middle (1.6% share) and Far East (8.6% share) also increased by 11.7% and 43%, respectively. In the African market (share of 3.6%), our textile deliveries increased by 2.6%. Eastern Europe (1.2% share) experienced a sharp decline of 31.6%, attributable to the decline in exports to Russia (-37.5%), Belarus (-76.6%) and Ukraine (-42.8%). Textile exports to Oceania (share of 0.9%) decreased by 5.8% (Australia -2.6% and New Zealand -21.3%).

On the import side, China remains the leading textile supplier with a share of 13% (not including woven and knitted clothing). Chinese imports rose 7.7%. Our textile deliveries to the Chinese market increased by 50.8%, but the share was limited to 4.9%.

Investment increased despite lower capacity rates

The capacity rate decreased in 2022 to an average 68.3%, compared to 71.7% in 2021 (pre-coronavirus 73.6% in 2019). Textile companies nevertheless invested 190.8 million euros in 2022 (+22.1%). These are mainly rationalisation and replacement investments, as well as environmental and energy-saving investments.

Employment saw slight increase

In mid-2022, 18,514 workers were employed in the textile industry. This is a 1.1% increase from mid-2021. However, before the coronavirus crisis, 19,246 people were working in the textile industry.

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Energy crisis turns into competitiveness crisis

The energy crisis has not yet been contained, although energy prices have dropped since peaking in the summer of 2022. In addition, the out-of-control inflation that resulted from the energy crisis led to labour cost inflation through the system of automatic wage indexation in Belgium. The textile industry's economic curve, which shows business confidence, suggests that production will also decline in the first quarter of 2023.