Because of COVID-19, El Salvador’s garment production has dropped by 35%, resulting 20,000 job losses and could loss another 5,000. This loss will reduce the industry’s current headcount of 80,000 as exports fell by 453 million from January to May, reducing annual sales by 42%.
“The sector has been tremendously impacted because it generates most jobs,” says Jose Escobar, President of industry association Camtex, adding “even if we work every day, production capacity is very limited compared to others”.
Those other he meant including Honduras, plans to transform its industry into an active powerhouse, may affect El Salvador market share.
He also added that the small country also lacks the bandwidth to quickly restart factories.
After severe lockdowns imposed by President Nayib Bukele, El Salvador has recently started opening its economy and is gradually increasing the output to 35-40% and hopes to increase this rate without neglecting the sanitary measures, according to Camtex.
According to the group’s executive director Patricia Figueroa, the industry will remain in standby mode until September when it will be able to assess the full impact of the virus and then begin exploring new business opportunities.
At least 30% of Comtex companies have moved to PPE production, Figueroa added.
The industry’s ability of making face masks and other personal protective equipment for U.S. consumers has helped cushion decay from declining garment production and order, said Mauricio Rodriguez, Cmatex’s commercial coordinator.
El Salvador is the ninth largest supplier of apparel to the US, will invest $90,000 a month to ensure safe transport for the workers. The sector has already invested $1 million to adapt to the virus and flooding from tropical storm Amanda.
Hanesbrands has a strong operation in this country, donated 85,000 basic clothing items to cope with the storm.