Pakistan's textile industry

Pakistan’s Textile Sector: A Neglected Giant in the State of Dormancy

Textiles: A Dormant Giant: The original article by Amir Jahangir was published on website

Pakistan, known as the 5th largest cotton producer worldwide and housing the largest manufacturing industry in the nation – the textile industry, seems to be entrapped in a paradox of both potential and neglect.

While the sector contributes a staggering 57% to the country’s exports and provides employment to a vast portion of the population, its steady decline over the past five years has been marked by a tangible lack of interest from both the government and private sector.

Pakistan's textile

Despite the textile sector’s fundamental role in the economy, its position within the economic strategy of the country seems to be wavering. The Ministry of Textiles, the government body responsible for its administration and curating the industry, appears to have been in a virtual dormant state for the last half-decade. This can be glaringly noticed in the outdated and obsolete data on their website, which has not been updated for years. The ministry still prides itself on having Razzaq Dawood as its advisor, someone who has long gone from the policy arena. The last tender dates back to 2019, and the events and expos mentioned are relics of 2018-2019, casting a shadow on the department’s lack of initiative.


This lethargy is not just limited to the government. The All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA), the body representing Textile manufacturers in Pakistan, too, seems to be drifting, lacking vision and momentum to seize opportunities in the regional and global market space. A visit to their website reveals that the latest industry insights are from 2021, suggesting a detachment from current global textile trends and developments.

Given the current scenario, the announcement made by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, in his budget speech, about promoting the Pakistan’s textile industry by abolishing the 5% regulatory duty on synthetic filament yarn, which is not produced locally, feels like a drop in the ocean. The increase in GST on Tier-1 Retailers of Textiles and Leather products from 12% to 15% appears more of a move to gain revenues, rather than a strategic plan to bolster the textile industry. Influencing the competitiveness of the high-end textile products being produced at home as compared to the similar products available to the consumer from the gray channels.

The Textiles and Apparel Policy 2020-25, launched by the Ministry of Commerce, promises to boost value-added exports and make Pakistan a major player in the global textile supply chain. However, the document is brimming with ambitious targets, but without a concrete action plan on how to achieve them. Telling the nation “What to Do”, while muted on the “How” part.

The statistics tell a worrying tale – the exports of textile products posted a growth of 12.8% year-on-year to $4.4 billion in 2017-18, while the 2022-23 figures by the Economic Survey of Pakistan show a negative growth of 16.03%. This trend is a stern warning that without immediate and strategic action, the industry is at risk of further decline.

To make matters worse, the global shift from natural to man-made fibers in both consumption and production patterns is an undeniable reality that the Pakistani textile industry is yet to acknowledge and adapt to. This signals an urgent need for an instrument of research and development that can guide the industry toward an innovation-centric sustainable textile model.

It is evident that the textile industry, one of the champions of Pakistan’s economy, is sadly enmeshed in neglect and apathy from the authorities that ought to be its strongest allies. Without a doubt, a rejuvenated and focused approach toward this sector is the need of the hour. The potential is immense, but the will and vision must meet the understanding of the global shift in market dynamics and the innovation that can enable the possibilities.

An Overview of Pakistan’s Cotton Industry: Statistical Analysis for 2022/2023

In the face of the increasingly fluctuating global cotton market, the Pakistani cotton industry has showcased a relatively resilient performance. The data for 2022/2023 indicates that cotton was grown in an area of 2.065 million hectares. This represents a slight decline from the 2.110 million hectares of the previous year. Despite the decrease in cultivation area, the yield per hectare stood at 404.61 kilograms, reflecting an improved yield compared to previous seasons.

An Overview of Pakistan's Cotton Industry
Cotton Fields, AJ – 2023

Cotton production for 2022/2023 was recorded at 0.836 million tonnes. This figure shows a decline compared to the 1.265 million tonnes produced in the 2021/2022 season. The shift in production can be attributed to a variety of factors, including climate change effects, agricultural practices, and policy regulations.

Beginning stocks for the 2022/2023 season were 0.5 million tonnes, which when coupled with imports of 1 million tonnes, provided the cotton industry with a substantial volume for consumption and export. The total cotton consumption in Pakistan for the 2022/2023 season was high, reaching 1.9 million tonnes.

Despite the considerable consumption, Pakistan managed to export 0.009 million tonnes of cotton in the 2022/2023 season, slightly above the previous year’s export volume. By the end of the 2022/2023 season, ending stocks were at 0.427 million tonnes. The stocks-to-use ratio, a key indicator of market tightness, was recorded at 0.22 for the 2022/2023 season, suggesting a balance in the supply and demand scenario for the Pakistani cotton industry.

Despite the fluctuating figures and the challenges faced by the cotton industry, Pakistan is a major player in the global cotton market. However, the global shift in standards and production techniques is changing the global landscape of textiles. Pakistan needs to focus more on exploring new markets, increasing yield per hectare, and innovation to improve its share to be part of the global value and supply chain. The statistics provide a comprehensive overview of the industry, but it is important to remember that the sector’s performance is influenced by numerous variables, both domestic and global. The resilience and potential of Pakistan’s cotton industry offer a promising future, given the right realizations, interventions, and policy support.

Revitalizing Pakistan’s Textile Industry: The Need for Sustainable Innovation.

While the textile industry, once a pillar of the country’s economy, has seen a gradual decline over the years. This downturn has been attributed largely to a lack of research, development, and innovation; key factors necessary for staying competitive in the global market. Despite being blessed with an abundant supply of raw materials and skilled labour, the industry is grappling with outdated technology and traditional manufacturing methods, leading to reduced efficiency, and increased environmental impact.

This stagnation in the textile sector underscores the urgent need for an initiative like the Sustainable Textile Innovation Council. The council, aimed at fostering research and development in sustainable textiles, can stimulate the evolution of the industry and help it regain its competitive edge on a global scale.

Mohsin Iqbal, the driving force behind the council, has a keen understanding of the industry’s challenges. “The Pakistani textile industry is at a critical juncture,” says Iqbal. “We can either continue to decline, or we can seize the opportunity to innovate and evolve. The idea of the Sustainable Textile Innovation Council offers a platform for change, promoting the use of sustainable materials, advanced manufacturing techniques, and collaborative learning.”

Mohsin Iqbal
Mohsin Iqbal: “Innovation and sustainability are no longer mere options; they are necessities for survival in today’s global market. We have the resources, the skills, and the passion. What we need now is a concerted effort to drive research, encourage innovation, and embrace sustainable practices. The future of Pakistan’s textile industry depends on it.”

Iqbal, with his extensive experience in the technology sector and deep interest in sustainable textile innovation, emphasizes the pressing need for this initiative. “Innovation and sustainability are no longer mere options; they are necessities for survival in today’s global market,” he asserts. “We have the resources, the skills, and the passion. What we need now is a concerted effort to drive research, encourage innovation, and embrace sustainable practices. The future of Pakistan’s textile industry depends on it.”

As Pakistan’s textile industry grapples with persistent challenges and a looming need for strategic reorientation, there is a pressing demand for the functioning of the Sustainable Textile Innovation Council (STIC). This body would facilitate the industry’s transition towards a more sustainable, resilient, and innovative framework.

  1. Global Shift to Sustainable Textiles: The textile industry worldwide is gradually shifting towards more environmentally friendly practices. The STIC could foster sustainable initiatives, such as promoting the use of organic cotton, reducing water usage, and transitioning towards renewable energy sources in production facilities.
  2. Innovation and Technology Adoption: The council would promote the adoption of new technologies and innovations to increase efficiency, reduce wastage, and promote the circular economy. Embracing automation, digitization, and data analytics can transform the traditional textile sector into a forward-looking industry ready for the future.
  3. Capacity Building and Education: Through workshops, training programs, and seminars, the council can foster a culture of continuous learning and skill development. Such initiatives would ensure that Pakistan’s textile workforce is equipped to navigate a rapidly evolving industrial landscape.
  4. Research and Development: The council will stimulate investment in R&D to explore more efficient manufacturing techniques, innovative materials, and sustainable supply chain processes. Through collaborative research with universities and research institutions, it can pioneer breakthroughs that redefine the Pakistan’s textile industry’s trajectory.
  5. Industry Collaboration and Partnerships: The council can be the pivot to facilitate collaborations between various industry stakeholders to harness collective strength. This can take the form of public-private partnerships, alliances with international sustainable textile bodies, or joint initiatives with local and foreign universities.
  6. Consumer Awareness: The council could lead consumer education campaigns to increase awareness about the environmental impact of textiles and the benefits of choosing sustainable products. As consumer demand can be a powerful driver of industry change, these efforts can help stimulate market demand for sustainable textiles.

The establishment of a Sustainable Textile Innovation Council in Pakistan could be the catalyst needed to drive the industry toward a more sustainable and competitive future. Not only would this align Pakistan’s textile industry with global trends, but it would also unlock economic benefits, enhance social well-being, and safeguard the environment.

The Mandate of the Sustainable Textile Innovation Council (STIC) will be different From the All-Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA), the Value Proposition and Policy Focus would also Differ in Objectives and Outcomes:

In the fast-paced world of industry moving ahead with artificial intelligence and automation, the line between success and failure can be drawn by a simple choice: to embrace innovation and change or remain stagnant in comfort zones, leading to a slow and gradual demise. Nowhere is this decision more critical than in the dynamic textile industry, where the winds of change constantly blow. To survive and thrive, textile businesses must wholeheartedly embrace innovation, break free from their traditional boundaries, and venture into uncharted territories.

Innovation, the catalyst for progress, holds the power to revolutionize the textile industry. The constant evolution of technology, consumer demands, and market trends demands a nimble and adaptable approach. Those who refuse to adapt risk being left behind as competitors seize opportunities and push boundaries.

The textile industry has a choice to become a trailblazer, seizing innovation as a beacon of hope, or to be content with the status quo and fade into obscurity. However, history has shown time and again that complacency breeds stagnation, leading to the downfall of once-thriving empires.

By embracing innovation, textile businesses can unlock endless possibilities. Cutting-edge research and development can lead to the discovery of new and sustainable materials, revolutionizing the very fabric of the industry. Advanced manufacturing techniques, powered by automation and artificial intelligence, can optimize production processes, enhancing efficiency, and reducing costs.

The adoption of innovative technologies, such as 3D printing and nanotechnology, can unleash a new wave of creativity, enabling designers to push the boundaries of what is possible. Textiles can become interactive, adaptable, and multifunctional, catering to the ever-changing needs of consumers. Smart textiles, embedded with sensors and electronics, can revolutionize industries like healthcare, sports, and fashion, opening up new avenues for growth.

The potential rewards for embracing innovation are vast, but the risks of staying in comfort zones are equally immense. In an industry where competitors are constantly evolving, failure to adapt means falling behind. The once loyal customer base may flock to more innovative brands, enticed by the allure of cutting-edge designs and novel experiences. Financial woes may compound as outdated practices drain resources, hindering growth and stifling profitability.

To avoid a slow and gradual demise, textile businesses must foster a culture of innovation. Encouraging creativity, empowering employees, and seeking collaborations with startups and research institutions can inject fresh perspectives and ideas. Embracing a mindset of continuous improvement, where even the smallest of changes are seen as stepping stones towards progress, can fuel the industry’s journey towards a brighter future.