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Pakistan’s textile processing industry
by Dr. Noor Ahmed Memon

Textile Processing Sector has been operative virtually since the very inception of Pakistan in 1947. In the 1950s and 1960s textile industry of Pakistan witnessed tremendous growth, when a number of textile Spinning and Composite Units started were established. At the same Power Loom Units also saw remarkable growth in Pakistan but in the unorganized sector, whose number increased to about 0.3 million plus.

As out of necessity, a proportionate number of Processing Units were required for dyeing, bleaching, printing, sanforising, finishing, packing and packaging of the raw-fabrics which was being mass-produced by the unorganized Power Loom Sector. And this was the occasion when the entrepreneurs and pioneers of the Processing Sector met the growing demand of the  textile industry successfully. Despite their meager resources, they succeeded not only in making the country self-sufficient in dress and apparel, but also in providing quality fabrics and garments to the International Export Market.

The Textile Processing is one of the most value-added export-oriented and labour-intensive sectors of Textile Industry in Pakistan.  The representative trade body for this important sector is All Pakistan Textile Processing Mills Association (APTPMA) that is formally affiliated with the Federation of Pakistan  Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI). APTPMA with its head Office in Faisalabad was registered with Federal Ministry of Commerce on 5th July 1990 and started functioning from July 1991. The organization opened three Regional/Zonal Offices Faisalabad, Karachi, and Lahore/Gujranwala.

Mr. Maqsood Ahmed Butt Chairman Aptpma

Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Chaudhary Vice Chairman APTPMA & Regional Incharge (Karachi Region)

The total number of its member units for the year 2009-10 is more than 450 spread all over Pakistan. The principal object in the association is to protect and promote the interest of all persons dealing in the processing of textile products in Dyeing, Printing and Finishing.  As these units are members of the representative body they can be considered as being in the “organised sector|.

Mr. Muhammad Saeed Sheikh Vice Chairman APTPMA & Regional Incharge (Faisalabad Region)

Mr. Zahid Mahmood Vice Chairman APTPMA & Regional Incharge (Lahore/Gujranwala Region)

Including non members of APTPMA , at present about 650 independent processing units are working in and around Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Lahore and Karachi, in which at least 50 are integrated units have complete finishing facilities.

Over the last seven years textile sector has invested more than $ 7.0 billion in modernization and higher value addition. As the current trend is for the establishment of air-jet looms units, open-width processing units, and in printing major strength is of 'rotary' screen printing machines, further investment made for the import of latest machinery for bleaching, dyeing, printing and finishing.

Production of cloth

Cloth is being produced in both mill and non-mill sectors.  Pakistan fabric's range from coarse to super varieties, with coarse and medium varieties consumed locally. There are a large number of vertically integrated units, where production is controlled from fibre to the end product, and marketed abroad directly.

Production of cloth (mill sector) increased from 925 million sq. meters in 2004-05 to 1,017 million sq. meters in 2008-09, thus showing an average 2% per annum. Out of total production during 2008-09 in mill sector, 49% produced in grey form, 30% dyed and printed, 15% blended and 6% bleached.  Production of cloth (mill-sector) is given in Table-1.

Table 1 : Production of Cloth (Mill-Sector)
                                                                                       (Million. sq mtrs)

Year Cotton Cloth Blended Cloth Total
2004-05 842 83 925
2005-06 852 52 904
2006-07 917 61 978
2007-08 951 65 1,016
2008-09 950 67 1,017
  Source: Textile Commissioner’s Organization, Government of Pakistan.

Exports of Textiles

Pakistan has recorded exports worth $19.3 billion which not only exceeds the target set for exports in 2009-10, i.e. $18.8 billion. Textile exports fetched a lion’s share of 51.8% in value terms out of the total exports for the financial year 2009-10 Exports of textile and clothing, which crossed the $10 billion mark, recorded a growth of 7% as compared to the last year. The textile exports recorded a substantial increase to existing market but also to markets like Turkey, Portugal and Singapore, which broadened the customer base.

On the other hand export of cotton fabrics decreased from 2,634 million sq. meters worth US $ 2.11 billion in 2005-06  to 1,753 million sq. meters worth US $ 1.82 billion in 2009-10, thus showing decline of 14% in terms of value. About 40% of the fabric exported from Pakistan is in unprocessed form. Dyed fabric is only 20% of the total fabric exports. Export of fabrics in unprocessed fabric results in low unit value realization. Export of cotton fabrics is given in Table-2.

Table 2: Export of Cotton Fabrics

Year Quantity
(Million sq. meters)
(US$ Million)
($ sq. Meter)
2004-05 2,399 1,863 0.78
2005-06 2,634 2,108 0.90
2006-07 2,211 2,026 0.90
2007-08 2,035 2,010 0.99
2008-09 1,898 1,955 1.05


1,753 1,819 1.03
  Source: Export Promotion Bureau, Government of Pakistan

Pakistan has quality and technology advantage in spinning, weaving, dyeing and finishing.  Now Pakistan's weaving industry in mill sector  has been producing sophisticated quality fabrics in line with the latest overseas demand. Made of superior cotton, the textile fabrics of Pakistan are distinguished for their quality, texture, lustrous colour and rich combination of superior designs and competitive prices.

Improving the quality of the fabrics, finishing and designing areas can developed more value-addition garments, knitwear and specialized textile. In the global fabric markets Pakistan is still perceived as a low quality fabric supplier. This translates into low unit price realization when compared with competitors.

 Export of textile finished products from Pakistan is given in Table-3. Pakistan produces a complete range of textiles from cotton yarn to garments. Finishing is required for enhanced value addition of these products.  It is apparent that the textile industry has been able to retain the exports of textiles at the same level in the last five years.

Table-3 : Export of finished textile products
                                                                                                                 Value : (US $ million)

Product 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09


  Knitwear (Hosiery) 1,751 1,798 1,732 1,741 1,761
  Readymade Garment 1,310 1,547 1,592 1,230 1,283
  Towels 588 611 613 643 676
  Bed wear 2,038 1,996 1,903 1,735 1,724
  Cotton denim fabrics 4,376 5,593 8,040 11,707 11,990
  Source: Trade Development Authority of Pakistan

Issues faced by the finishing sector

Exports of finished textiles began to expand since 1990. In recent years, the industry has been jolted by some trade restrictions based on environmental considerations. Certain exporters in Pakistan have faced cancellation of their orders due to their lack of compliance with certain legislations in the importing countries. This at one hand incurs major losses on their behalf as well as makes other producers about foreign markets.

Worldwide governments and businesses respond to consumer preferences for ecologically friendly production and consumption and set and impose environmental standards. Thus, even the goods currently being exported are increasingly being expected to meet stringent environmental standards. There are a large number of mechanical and chemical processes involved in the textile industry and each process has a different impact on the environment. This impact starts with the use of pesticides during the cultivation of natural fibres, the erosion caused by sheep farming or the emissions during the production of synthetic fibres. From that moment on, a number of processes are applied, using thousands of different chemicals, to process the fibres and to reach the final stage of textile end product.

During the past few decades the awareness regarding environmental problems has increased considerably and has become an important issue in the textile trade due to various environmental and health legislations, and also environmental policy is increasingly dictated through market forces. Many chemicals used in the textile industry cause environmental and health problems.

These problems may occur during the production process, with respect to emissions or occupational health problems. Other problems caused by these chemicals appear due to their presence in the final product. However, worldwide environmental problems associated with the textile industry are typically those associated with the water pollution caused by the discharge of untreated effluent and those because of use of toxic chemicals especially during processing. These chemicals can harm consumer if retained in the fabric.

The objective of chemical substitution is to replace process chemicals having high pollutant ratio or toxic properties with others that have less impact on water quality or that are more amenable to wastewater treatment. Pakistan textile industry used various types of organic chemicals as per demand of buyers. Import of organic chemicals in to Pakistan is given in Table- 4.

Table 4: Import of Organic Chemicals


Value US $ Million

2004-05 1,322
2005-06 1,196
2006-07 1,390
2007-08 1,687
2008-09 1,557
  Source: State Bank of Pakistan

A number of processes chemical substitutions have been suggested or developed for the textile industry, and it is expected that this area will play a more important role in the future. The cost to substitute other chemicals and products for those containing toxic pollutants is usually much less than the cost to remove the pollutants from a mill's. 

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