Author:Willems, Peter J.

As World Cup fever spreads across the globe one Syrian firm is already celebrating a good result.

The Syrian textile industry has received a major boost with the news that one of its leading producers has been selected to supply some of the millions of T-shirts required by football fans celebrating the 1998 World Cup, to be held in France, this summer.

The Orient Manufacturing Company, based in Damascus, is optimistic that its selection as a supplier of T-shirts for the World Cup competition will pave the way for further future international opportunities.

"This is an important contract for Orient," noted a representative for Teleserve Offshore, the Beirut-based company that put the deal together, "a real breakthrough. There is a tremendous demand for these T-shirts in the world market."

Several international outlets have been selected to provide between 20 and 30 million T-shirts for the World Cup and Orient will supply 1.5 million of the total number. However, hopes are high within the firm that this deal is just the beginning for Orient. According to Teleserve, between 200 to 300 million T-shirts of various shapes and designs are bought each year in Europe, which offers Orient an opportunity to capture a share in the market now it has `got a foot in the door'. Teleserve's representative adds, "With T-shirt demand so vast and Orient's name becoming well known, there are great opportunities for the company to expand in Europe. As a matter of fact, negotiations are already under way; it is very likely Orient will continue exporting large quantities of T-shirts after the World Cup."

The Orient company, a state-owned business that produces chiefly 100 per cent cotton underwear, is located in A'Saideh Zayneb, a southeastern suburb of Damascus. Of the 1,050 people employed by the company, 950 work on the production line - which includes knitting, dying and bleaching, cutting, sewing, inspection and packing. Some 80 per cent of those employed on the line are women. In 1997 Orient sold up to 900,000 dozen garments at a cost of 700,000,000 Syrian Lira, (approximately $15 million). Eighty per cent were sold domestically while 20 per cent were exported in sales worth over $1 million. Orient's largest European customer is Germany, followed by France, England and Greece.

The Director-General of Orient, Dr. Hayyan Salman, who also lectures on economics at Damascus University, said that Law 10, which was passed in May 1991, was instrumental in Orient's...

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