Spun yarns are used worldwide in a wide range of textiles, apparel and other manufactured products. With a total output of 28 million tons, spun yarns satisfy more than half the needs of the global textile and clothing industry. Furthermore, the market is growing. Between 2000 and 2010 the demand for spun yarns worldwide is forecast to rise by almost 25%.
Growth will not, however, be evenly spread. Spinning capacity is increasingly shifting towards developing economies as investors install new machinery in lower cost regions. Asian countries in particular stand to benefit the most in the medium term.
In developed and newly industrialised countries, on the other hand, spinners are highly vulnerable to growing imports of "downstream" textiles and apparel. Spinners also face growing competition from filament yarns and nonwovens.
But many producers in developed economies are managing to remain competitive. Italy still has a buoyant spinning sector, despite its high labour costs. Some spinners are employing economies of scale while others are using state-of-the-art technology to minimise their dependence on expensive labour. Electronic monitoring and control systems help to improve productivity, speed, quality and flexibility. Many spinners are developing skills in design and innovation - often using new and innovative fibres to differentiate their products from those of their competitors.
All spinners, however, will face a major challenge over the next few years as quotas restricting international textile and clothing trade are eliminated. Spinners in advanced economies will increasingly be forced to move closer to centres of textile and apparel production in order to be able to offer quick response and lower prices.