The Belgian textile industry in 2023

Textile turnover narrowly held steady in 2023

The Belgian textile industry realised a turnover of €5.1 million in 2023, remaining almost at the level of the previous year (-0.4% in value), when turnover rose by around 10%. This stabilisation is the result of an approximate 7% decline in volume and a 6.8% increase in sales prices.

The loss of competitiveness in 2023 due to, among other things, the rise in labour costs clearly heavily affected activity as the year progressed. While turnover still grew by 5.3% in value in the first quarter of 2023, activity weakened in the second (-0.3%) and third quarter (-1.2%) to drop even deeper in the fourth quarter (-5.3%).

Only yarn turnover (+14.9% up in value) and synthetic and man-made fibres and filament yarns (+7.9% up in value) saw sharp increases. In volume terms, the increase in yarns was limited to 1.7%. Sales prices of yarns (incl. preparation) rose 13.2%; partly due to the increase in certain raw material prices (e.g. dew retting flax +44.7% 2023/2022). Activity in synthetic and man-made fibres and filament yarns increased by about 27% in volume, while sales prices fell by 19.1% on average. Technical textile saw only limited sales growth (+0.8%). Weaving mill turnover remained almost stable by value (-0.5%), but fell by 3.6% in volume. Textile finishing (-7.7% in value; -20.5% in volume), carpet (-9.3% in value; -14.4% in volume) and knitted fabrics (-9.3% in value) experienced a sharp decline in sales that was even more pronounced in volume than in value.

2024 04 CONJT VERILIN 0 300124 000345 Verilin
2024 04 CONJT ALFA impakt 20230704 48 Alfa Carpets

Evolution of turnover by product group

Evolution in million euros 2022 Evolution in million euros 2023* Evolution in million euros '23/'22* Evolution in volume '23/'22*
Yarns (incl. preparation) 477.9 549.0 +14.9% +1.7%
Fabrics 539.2 536.5 -0.5% -3.6%
Textile finishing 166.0 153.3 -7.7% -20.5%
Carpets 1,378.2 1,250.0 -9.3% -14.4%
Synthetic and artificial fibres and filament yarns 536.7 578.9 +7.9% +27.0%
Knitted fabrics 54.0 49.0 -9.3% not available
Technical textiles and others 1,948.5 1,964.2 +0.8% not available
TEXTILE INDUSTRY ** 5,100.5 5,080.9 -0.4 % -7.2%

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

Weakened competitiveness puts a damper on export performance

75% of Belgian textile sales come from exports. In 2023, textile exports declined by 6.3% compared to 2022. The decline in exports of technical textiles, the main product group, was limited to 1.2%. Interior textiles, the second most important product group, saw a 16.1% decline in exports, and exports of fabrics primarily for clothing fell 23.1%. Textile imports (including transits) fell by 16.3%. The surplus on the Belgian textile trade balance was 3.4 billion euros.

Internal market remains important export market

About three-quarters of total textile exports are internal EU deliveries. In 2023, these declined by 8.2%. On the French market, the most important export market with a 19.7% share of total Belgian textile exports, textile deliveries declined by 14.2%. Exports to Germany, the second most important export market with a 16.9% share, decreased by 10.5%. Less textile was also sold in our third market, the Netherlands (9.2% share) (-8.4%). Sales to Italy, the fourth most important export market with a 6.9% share, were up 3.2%.

2024 04 CONJT TWENTHE Cotton C Tetra Toby New Lila LR 17 copy Passion Home Linen by Twenthe Group

Exports outside the eu remained stable

Textile exports outside the EU remained at the 2022 level (+0.7%). Belgian textile exports to most regions outside the EU fell. However, the Near and Middle East (share 1.2%; +21.4%) and Far East (share 6.5%; +23.5%) saw substantially higher textile deliveries.

The main export market outside the EU is the UK (6.3% share). Belgian textile deliveries there declined 5.6% in 2023. To other Western European countries (3.2% share), textile exports fell by 1.9%: Switzerland -8.0% and Turkey -0.4%. Textile deliveries to Eastern Europe (0.8% share) were up 4.4%. Exports to Russia plunged 30.5%.

Deliveries to North America (share 2.4%; -19.8%) and South America (share 0.6%; -20.2%) were significantly lower. Textile exports to Africa (2.2% share) fell 1.1%. Textile exports to Oceania (share 0.5%) fell by 16.3% (Australia -16.0% and New Zealand -27.6%).

On the import side, China remains the leading textile supplier with a 10.2% share. Chinese imports fell by 30.3%. Our textile deliveries to the Chinese market increased by 33.5%, but the share was limited to 4%.

Investments increased notwithstanding an extremely low utilisation rate

The production capacity utilisation rate for textile fell to an average of 65.3% in 2023; which is the lowest level in 10 years (pre-corona 73.6% in 2019). Textile companies nevertheless invested around €200 million in 2023 (+4.5% vs 2022), mainly in green transition and digitalisation.

Employment experienced a sharp decline

In 2023, textile employment fell 6.3% to 17,353 workers due to closures and bankruptcies.

2024 04 CONJT AW Orinoco roomshot 36 hr copy Associated Weavers

Outlook for 2024 moderately positive

The economic curve of the textile industry reflecting business confidence has been trending upwards (gross curve) since January 2024. As this curve is three months ahead of actual economic activity, a cautious recovery in textile activity may be expected from summer onwards.

Conjunctuur textiel 2024 FR