Fiji garment industry buoyant despite Cyclone Winston

Cyclone winston

Fiji garment industry buoyant despite Cyclone Winston

Yet experts and officials say that while many of Fiji’s subsistence farmers and workers are facing tough times, they don’t expect the cyclone’s impact on the larger economy will be major or long-lasting.

Government infrastructure in the capital Suva was also spared, and aid money and rebuilding work will provide economic stimulus.

What’s really devastating though, is the loss of homes and subsistence lifestyles.

We wanted to get a first-hand account of what business is like now in Fiji, two months after Cyclone Winston, and what effect the cyclone has had on the garment production industry.

We asked Adeshni Pratap, Fiji’s based Business Manager at Image Label Systems for her views.

Fiji destruction aerial shot

What businesses were most affected and how have they managed the recovery process?

The worst affected areas were in Nadi, Lautoka, Ba and Rakiraki and the smaller outer islands of Koro. Fortunately, the major players in Fiji’s garment manufacturing were not so badly affected and were able to resume production within a couple of days after the cyclone hit. Although there had been power outages, they were not as severely affected as the other islands, although staff members’ families were affected.

Mother and child cyclone Winston

What’s the feeling in Fiji amongst the people now two months after cyclone Winston and how are they coping with trying to work and rebuild their lives?

Tropical cyclones are not new to Fijian people and they are accustomed to cyclones – having grown up with them. Some bring showers, some bring flooding and others come and go. But Winston was different and left tens of thousands of people homeless with the real number still unknown.

This is why the people of Fiji understand that life goes on after a natural disaster. They don’t mope around, wondering ‘why us’ – they see what needs to be done and they get on with it.

Fiji has a history of bouncing back from adversity and despite the massive devastation caused by Cyclone Winston they were quick to respond to the challenge and move forward.

In no time at all the Fijian positive spirit saw them plunging quickly into the relaunch of their lives and buildings.

The response from the Fiji Government was heartening and along with support from New Zealand, Australia and other countries, NGO’s, private companies and religious organisations all offering assistance, the massive mission to rebuild schools, homes and businesses was soon underway. It is a humbling experience to see the human spirit in action, not just amongst these small communities but on a global scale.

Relief aid for Fiji

How does Fiji maintain their reputation for consistency and fast turnaround and continue to fulfill production orders for brand owners in the face of something like this?

The Fijian garment industry has developed a reputation not only for ethical manufacturing, but also consistency, reliability, fast turnaround and in particular, flexibility with small orders. These factors, combined with flexible delivery times, competitive pricing and the reliability of a near sourcing partner for its main markets of New Zealand and Australia, makes Fiji a more attractive as production methods and needs change.

Customers have always been given assurance that in spite of recent events, they are not at any higher risk in the Pacific with the weather being predictable. Although it has been a big challenge to pick up after such a catastrophe, the garment industry worked long and hard to get back on track.

This is a peak production time for Fiji now, particularly for sports clothing and school uniforms and for the most part most customers haven’t experienced delays. This has sent a clear, reassuring message to overseas clients that the garment production industry is well and truly back in full swing.

Boy looking at Cyclone Winston aftermath

Everyone is doing their bit to help

Reflecting on Fiji’s apparel industry, Fiji has weathered its own “perfect storm” back around 2000.  The second political coup, the diminishing preferences of favourable tax and tariffs in Australia, New Zealand and US, and the rising strength of China, Bangladesh and Indonesia’s clothing producers, nearly wiped out the industry.

“The mantra that has helped revitalise the industry is based on specialised products, niche industries, producing smaller volumes” says Kaushik Kumar, Chairman of the Textile Clothing and Footwear Council (TCF) of Fiji and Managing Director of United Apparel.

People from all over the world have donated money to the relief fund, wanting to help their fellow man and at times like this the best in humanity is bought out.

The garment industry has been active in Fiji for a long time, and  Immago has been supporting the industry there since the mid 1990’s.

The team at Image Label Systems were amazing and the commitment and positivity they demonstrated was truly inspiring and showed the true resilience of the Fijian people.

Fiji rebuild after Cyclone Winston

If you would like to donate to the relief effort, we recommend using the Red Cross.

You’ll find instructions on how to donate here: