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Brazil looks north for trade growth

It's the economy, idiota.

Brazil's home textiles manufacturers are wrestling with a weak real — nearly three to one US dollar — and hoping that the Brazilian government's efforts to rein in interest rates and control inflation will allow it to rev up cap spending in 2004. However, most exporters to the US said during the annual Texfar do Brasil here last week that they see opportunities to grow their business in the States, particularly in the mid-tier channel and up.

Karsten, which owns New York-based Terrisol USA, plans to boost its table linens business, which is currently overshadowed by its bath and beach towel businesses in the US, said Joao Karsten, vp. Looking toward the future, he said, Terrisol also will expand its sourcing beyond Brazil.

"Eventually, Terrisol may represent some mills in other product categories as well,"' he said.

Bedding manufacturer Altenburg is looking toward expanding its production above 220-count cotton sheeting to complement its comforter, sleep pillows and dec pillows business. It's also looking to Asia.

"We're starting to buy fabrics in China and India, bringing them to Italy for printing, and then to Brazil for finishing and sewing," said Rui Altenburg, president and director.

Bath and beach towel manufacturer Buettner added double jacquard looms and a new 14-color printer to broaden its business lines, said Joao Marchewsky, president and director. "We are trying to bring improvement and fashion to the basic towel," he said.

While most Brazilian manufacturers acknowledge that the elimination of quota in 2005 will heighten competition with Asian manufacturers, they also point out that it will rid them of their own export restrictions.

"There is a versatility here," said Udo Dohler, president of Dohler, which supplies flannel bedding and bath towels to the US. "Textiles companies in Brazil are very flexible in the global market and have a history of providing high quality. They're ready to go."

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