Mixed Reactions Over Impact Of Coronavirus On Trade

The textile sector has reported an increase in production for exported goods, since the outbreak of coronavirus. However, some industries, including aviation have not faired well. The textile industry said
12 Mar 2020 09:33
Mixed Reactions Over Impact Of Coronavirus On Trade
The Textile, Clothing and Footwear Industry Council President Michael Towler.

The textile sector has reported an increase in production for exported goods, since the outbreak of coronavirus.

However, some industries, including aviation have not faired well.

The textile industry said they were at the mercy of the shipping sector.

While the Fiji Ship Owners and Agents Association had not responded to questions sent to them,  the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Industry Council (TCFIC) president Michael Towler confirmed China’s inability to restart production even though requisitions had been placed.

“We understand it will be temporary until China’s factory operations normalise,” Mr Towler.

“Fortunately for Fiji, there is ample supply of raw materials available within Fiji for six months.”

Mr Towler, who is also chairman of the Fiji Export Council, said it was still early days as they had not experienced severe impacts to businesses caused by coronavirus.

“We have seen some shipping cancellations due to insufficient loadings out of China and also out of Fiji to New Zealand.

“This has a ripple effect over time and we expect this to become more disruptive during March, April and May.”

Mr Towler said TCFIC factories had good inventories because of Fiji’s geographical location in the South Pacific.

“We have to carry large stock holdings, but we are expecting this will have an impact over the next three months.”

He said other suppliers available around Asia and the world were impacted by disruption to their own supply lines.

“Of course, they are more expensive to go to,” Mr Towler said.

Public transport

The Fiji Bus Operators Association will convene medical workshops for its members as the industry braces against the coronavirus.

Association vice president Richard Lal said they would work with medical officials.

“We are in discussions with Dr Alipate Vakamocea, Health Director of the Adventist Healthcare, who has agreed to assist us,” he said.

“The reality is, it’s not a matter of if, but when it will come to Fiji.”

Mr Lal said 330,000 commuters use the public transport network daily and that time was of the essence to ensure their health and safety.

“We are planning to use the same workshops to discuss the economic impact on our industry and on individual members.”

Safety and sportswear

Performance Flotation Development Fiji Limited (PFD Fiji) said there was a drop in demand from its customers in Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Towler, the owner of the sports and safety wear manufacturer, said although the impact of coronavirus was still emerging, its effect would be substantial.

“We cannot source raw material suppliers or other markets for our products as the whole world is being impacted by the coronavirus,” he said.

“The alternative suppliers and markets are simply not available.”

The company produces lifejackets, rescue equipment – which was boosted during the Australia bushfires and floods.

“So far, we have only seen a downturn – about 10 per cent in lifejackets.

“But the summer season for these products is now over.

“Rescue equipment is up about 15 per cent and sublimated sports clothing has just started the peak season.”

Mr Towler said orders were up 20 per cent, but events could be cancelled as the impact of the virus is felt over the next few months.


Tourism Fiji chief executive officer Matthew Stoeckel said it was no surprise that foreign destinations had resorted to cheap internal holiday packages.

He said Tourism Fiji would continue to monitor the promotional activity and cheap holiday packages offered by other destinations.

“We have significant promotions in the market at the moment to stimulate demand,” he said.

“We are also in the market with our signature marketing campaign Bulanaires.”

Mr Stoeckel said, “the Bulanaire campaign comes to life throughout March and highlights our key point of difference, being our unique Bula spirit, and emphasises why travellers should choose Fiji over other destinations.”


A Fiji Airways spokesman says coronavirus and related travel restrictions affected travel demand, particularly on the Hong Kong route.

“As a result, we have withdrawn a number of Hong Kong flights from February through to March, with more withdrawals expected in April,” the spokesman said.

“Fiji Airways continues to partner with all key partners, including Tourism Fiji, on promotional activities to drive more travel from all our markets.”

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