Surgical masks, protective gowns, and overalls, which are greatly needed during the troublesome pandemic period, increased the demand for medical textile products. In 2020, Turkey’s overall medical technical textile exports increased by 2204 percent and reached an amount of 1.4 billion US Dollars. Turkey’s disposable medical mask exports also increased 22 times.
The coronavirus pandemic outbreak that started in Wuhan, China in December 2019, affected the whole world, causing 150 million people to become ill and more than 3 million people to die. In the meantime, the most needed surgical masks, protective gowns, and overalls during the pandemic period increased the demand for medical textile products.
Medical Textile Exports Increased by 2204 Percent in 2020
In 2020, Turkey’s overall medical technical textile exports increased by 2204 percent and reached an amount of 1.4 billion US Dollars. The medical and technical textile exports of the Aegean Region increased by 4582 percent and reached an amount of 92 million US Dollars. Especially surgical dresses and masks had the main share in the increase of medical-technical textile exports.
Most Surgical Mask Export to Germany
According to the data of the Turkish Statistical Institute (TUIK); Turkey exported disposable surgical masks to 135 countries in 2020. Germany, where surgical mask sales amounting to 31.4 million US Dollars were carried out, ranked first in the total exports realized.
Countries following Germany in medical mask exports were France, Libya, China, and Romania, respectively.
Medical Textile Exports Increased by 192 Percent in the First Quarter of 2021
In the first three months of 2021, the medical textile exports in Turkey increased by 192 percent, reaching an amount of 70 million US Dollars. The medical textile exports from the Aegean Region reached an amount of 3 million US Dollars with an increase of 178 percent.
Turkey stands out in supply
While there was a shortage of masks and protective clothing all over the world during the troublesome pandemic period, Turkey, which has a strong infrastructure in the field of nonwoven fabrics, was able to supply personal protective equipment to the world while meeting its own needs. At the same time, companies received incentives for new investments in this area.
The devastating Covid-19 period has also altered the supply chain in global trade. China and Southeast Asian countries have categorically been cheap production centers for European and US-based global brands for years. However, the pandemic period revealed that remote procurement is not always an advantage. Brands faced heavy costs during the pandemic period due to the necessity of remote supply and long-term stock. Many brands, now, desire to source the products they need from the closest point instead of distant geographies.
Mustafa Gültepe, President of Istanbul Ready-to-Wear and Apparel Exporters Association (İHKİB), expressed that this new situation highlights Turkey as the most important option for European-based brands seeking an alternative to China. Gültepe commented on the issue as follows, ‘‘First of all, Turkey is one of two countries with integrated infrastructure in ready-to-wear, along with China. We have great potential in all links of the end-to-end supply chain. We have the capability to produce in every segment and in every quality. Geographically we are very close to Europe. We stand out from our competitors with our short supply durations. More importantly, we produce in accordance with social responsibilities at EU standards. We are among the countries that are yarest for the new era with our product quality and our sustainable and environmentally friendly production capacity.’’
Sector Representatives Call for the Mandatory Grants Abolished
The primary factor that weakens the competition strength of our industrialists in the medical product group is the mandatory grant requirement. There is a compulsory grant requirement for 1 surgical mask for the export of 5 surgical masks, 1 protective overall for the export of 10 protective overalls, or 20 surgical masks for the export of 3 protective overalls. Mustafa Gültepe, President of Istanbul Ready-to-Wear and Apparel Exporters’ Association (İHKİB) stated the following regarding the issue, ‘‘If the compulsory grant requirement on masks and medical clothing is abolished, we can increase our export volume to over 19 billion US Dollars and break our annual export record.’’
Burak Sertbaş, President of the Aegean Ready-to-Wear and Apparel Exporters Association, expressed the following on the subject, ‘‘If we remove the mandatory grant requirement for medical products, I estimate that this product group, where global demand is intense, will contribute approximately 5 billion US Dollars to our annual exports.’’