Australia's is the major market for the garments manufactured in Fiji.
The Vice president of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Council of Fiji, Nilesh Jamandas says there was some concern that the agreement which allows the imports to arrive in Australia duty free may not have been renewed.
Speaker:Nilesh Jamandas, vice president, Textile, Clothing and Footwear Council of Fiji
JAMANDAS: It is good that the extension has happened because the TCF Council and the industry is significantly reliant on this particular TCF extension.
ABBOTT: So Australia is the main export market for textiles and clothing produced in Fiji is that correct?
JAMANDAS: Australia and New Zealand would be the main markets of Fiji, yes and a bit is done for USA and a bit also is done for Europe as well.
ABBOTT: And what part of the industry do those garments fit into? Are they fashion, are they work clothes, what sector would they fit into?
JAMANDAS: Actually both, fashion as well as work wear, casual, corporate wear like suits and the retailers as well like the Kookai is manufactured in Fiji as well. So it is a good range of mix that is made in Fiji. But it's not the very cheap end because the cheap end gets made in Vietnam or Bangladesh of China. So Fiji so does the medium to higher end garments.
ABBOTT: How important is the textile industry in Fiji?
JAMANDAS: It's significantly important. A few years ago, only about six, seven years ago it was probably the number one industry. But now it's about number three or number four. There's a significant number of people being employed, and the exports would be about 80 to 90 million dollars, so it's significant. And also the employment industry in Fiji is significant as well, as the report said two-and-a-half to three-thousand people would be employed here in Fiji, and some of them would be separately sole breadwinners, because the education level and everything, the requirements are like year 10, year 11 or even lower. While graduate people are being employed in this industry.
ABBOTT: So what would the flow-on effects of this industry be if you employ up to three-thousand people, how many in the wider community would benefit as well?
JAMANDAS: It's a good question, I don't think any studies have been done but from offhand if a garment factory closes in certain areas the whole of the economy gets affected because just to give you an example there was a big garment factory in the western side of Fiji, Nuka levu and they employed about three-thousand workers but the exports were to the US. So when this company closed down there was a significant amount of unemployment and social problems that was attributed to this factory just being closed down. So there's a lot of people employed, there's a lot of shipping people, the retailers, the food suppliers, there's a lot of effects, down flow to this industry, and if the industry goes down definitely there's an impact on other industries that are associated with the garment industry.
ABBOTT: Was there any doubt in Fiji that Australia would roll over this contract to keep accepting Fiji textiles and clothing?
JAMANDAS: Well we were worried that probably it would not be extended but it's good that it has been extended. I think the TCF Council appreciates that significantly in terms of the value that the TCF Council plays in Fiji as well as for Australia.
ABBOTT: What sort of conditions does this industry operate in Fiji? We hear of many places in Asia where workers are trapped in what are called sweat shops. What are the conditions like for Textile, Clothing and Footwear industry workers in Fiji?
JAMANDAS: The conditions are very good in Fiji. We are very open, free, actually there's no abuses you can see in Fiji because most of them if you do this they would just go away, they would not work. I think there's a lot of emphasis put on the workers as well as having good conditions. We get audited as well, we get audited by external third party auditers like from Australia or even from Hong Kong. They would come, they see we pay right, the conditions of OHS are met, there are no abuses, they interview our workers as well as interview the management, that there is no physical abuse or any sort of abuses that happen at the factory. So these sort of checklist systems are done even before they give any orders. And if any of the factories fail obviously then they do not get any of these audits ... and these orders, the TCF Council is also taking these audits on various factories and these audits are happening every year, and even every year to one-and-a-half years and everyone must meet to get accreditation as well. All of our buyers regularly come to Fiji, they see our factories being operated. In regards to comparing against Asia, definitely our standards and also our wages are much higher than factories in Bangladesh or even Asia.