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The Tie and Dye Industry: how fake, cheap imports silently collapsed it

It was in vogue in the 80s through to the early 2000s. Its designs were amazing and everybody loved it. In fact, there was no gathering where you would not see people adorning themselves with these colourful prints. Above all, many found employment in making or selling it. But today the once vibrant industry—tie and dye—has collapsed at the blind side of many. What happened?

It is important to delve deep into the circumstances that led to the demise of this industry, as it was a means of livelihood for many households.

Tie and Dye making process
Speaking to the B&FT, one woman who wants to be known as Ruth recounted how it was a booming business for her uncle who is now living abroad.

“I used to help my uncle in his tie and dye business in the 90s to the early 2000s. it was very lucrative at the time. He had a lot of customers who came for it; some even lived abroad. He also taught people who were interested to learn how to do it. It was really a nice time,” she said.

But in a few years, Ruth’s uncle would give up on the business as imported textiles crept their way into the hearts of many Ghanaians.

“The influx of imported textiles began to pose a threat to the tie and dye business. It became increasingly expensive to produce. The materials and the dyes became expensive, so cost of production increased. So, if you were a producer you had to increase your price before you could make profit and remain in business.

“Meanwhile, cheap textiles with very nice designs and colours were being imported into the country by traders. So, eventually consumers and traders alike switched from tie and dye to the African prints and the business became no longer exciting. So, my uncle had less motivation to do it until he got an opportunity and travelled outside the country,” Ruth recalled.

Manufacturers were not the only ones priced out of business by the influx of the cheap and even fake imported fabrics. The sellers too had their share of misfortune.

Madam Gifty Owusu, who is a seller in Accra and has been in the tie and dye business for the past 15 years, also shared her bitter-sweet experience in the industry.

“In the early 90s a lot of people were buying tie and dye. In those days, if you didn’t own one then your closet was not complete. I even remember when a friend brought foreigners to my shop and they bought a lot. At that time, I could make sales of more than GH¢300 a day so business was good,” she said.

But it is no longer so for her today. For someone who could travel to the hinterlands and sell three bales of tie and dye within a month, sadly she now only manages to sell just 12 yards in a week – each yard sold at GH¢7, giving her a total GH¢84 a month. And even with that, it is only when senior high school students are going to school- as some schools have prescribed it for their students.

Madam Gifty also blames the situation largely on fake Chinese imported fabrics in the country.

Another trader in Accra, Mama Esther, says because of the fabric’s low patronage, she no longer purchases in large quantities because doing so would run her business at a loss.

The above situations clearly show that the tie and dye industry collapsed with the insurgence of fake Chinese imported fabrics, thereby coming at a great cost to manufacturers and traders in the industry.

Can government revive the industry?

Like Ruth’s uncle, many manufacturers of tie and dye have turned to doing something else, or have joined the sale of the imported fabrics which have taken over the market. The situation now seems hopeless for those remaining in the industry.

However, it is important for government to take interest in reviving an industry that is globally tipped to grow to US$10billion by 2022, at a compound annual growth rate of 6 percent.

One thing government can do is to set a policy that will be mandatory for some institutions – say senior high schools – to use tie and dye fabrics for their ceremonial outfits, clothes for worship or other activities on campus.

And again, to revive the sector government must restrict the influx of cheap fabrics into the country – albeit government has said it will use tax stamps to end smuggling of textiles in the country.

Last month, Trade Minister Alan Kyerematen announced that a transition period of three months has been given for old stocks of imported textiles to be cleared, and after that a tax stamp will be required – apart from the fact that these products must enter the country through restricted import channels.

What do you think?


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