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Syria's textile industry hangs on for survival

Syria's textile industry, once one of the country's bright spots, with its products coveted throughout the region and beyond is in shambles today. The sector has been devastated by the war that erupted in March 2011, with factories destroyed, workers displaced and sanctions hampering trade. The migrant crisis and outflow to Europe have also depleted its workforce.

Before Syria's conflict began, textiles represented some 63 per cent of the industrial sector's total production. According to the Syrian Economic Forum think-tank, the sector was worth 12 per cent of GDP, employed a fifth of the workforce and exports netted around $3.3 billion a year.But by 2014, private sector textile exports had fallen by half, with the industry particularly affected by fighting in Aleppo city, the country's former commercial hub and home to many textile factories.

Nearly 70 per cent of factories were closed or destroyed by the war. In addition, many businesses lost machines and employees. When the war arrived in Aleppo in mid-2012, eventually dividing the city between government control in the west and rebel control in the east, some businesses relocated to small workshops in the city's safer areas.

For all its challenges, Syria's textile industry continues to enjoy a reputation of quality in the region, and the recently concluded Beirut Fair attracted some 500 buyers, mostly from the Middle East.

The rising costs of production, difficult trading environment and shrinking workforce, all mean competitors from Turkey and China are increasingly able to pinch clients from Syria's textile industry. Manufacturers blame shrinking exports in part on sanctions slapped on Syria after the government began its crackdown on dissent following anti-government protests five years ago.