Mask exports offer pandemic-hit Vietnam garment makers breathing space

By Anh Minh   April 14, 2020 | 05:59 pm PT
Mask exports offer pandemic-hit Vietnam garment makers breathing space
A manager examines a face mask produced in a factory in southern Long An Province. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.
Vietnamese garment companies have signed deals to export hundreds of millions of face masks to the U.S. and the E.U.

Hanoi-based Garment 10 Jsc (Garco 10) recently received orders for 400 million medical masks and 20 million cloth masks from buyers in the U.S. and Germany.

TNG Investment and Trading Jsc in the northern Thai Nguyen Province has been exporting cloth masks to France, Belgium and Germany for almost a month.

Its Chairman Nguyen Van Thoi said the U.S. market is wide open for masks. The company is now working on administrative procedures to gift 500 cloth masks to the New York Police Department.

It is also planning to produce medical masks from mid-May since there is huge demand for them, he said.

Vietnam’s textile industry faces major problems in the first quarter due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In the first two months it struggled to source feedstock from China, and in March the E.U. and U.S. canceled orders as demand slumped. 

Industry insiders said shifting from garments to masks allows them to keep production going and pay employees, somewhat mitigating the losses caused by canceled orders, which are estimated at over $470 million.

Garco 10 CEO Than Duc Viet said mask exports account for almost 30 percent of the company’s revenues this year.

TNG also saw domestic sales rise 10 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, mostly from masks.

The Foreign Trade Agency said in a recent release that Vietnam has the potential to become a major global mask exporter.

It can make at least 200 million masks a month, and some producers have been able to make their own raw materials to reduce dependence on imports.

But the agency said face masks are only a temporary solution since demand would taper off as soon as the disease is contained.

Producers said they have to cap medical mask exports at 25 percent of production to comply with the government’s orders to ensure domestic demand is fully met.

There are around 6,800 textile businesses in Vietnam. Last year they exported goods worth $32.85 billion, up 7.8 percent year-on-year, with the U.S., the E.U. and Japan being the largest buyers.

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