The garment industry may well face slow development despite experiencing export growth of 28 percent in the first nine months of this year, according to the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS).

According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the sector managed to hit export revenues of 10.3 billion USD.

Textile and garment exports, one of Vietnam's biggest hard-currency earners, could reduce significantly due to the economic downturn in the US and Europe, the industry association has warned.

The VITAS said orders from the two markets for the next months were already 10 percent down.

An apparel firm executive said usually his company received plenty of orders in the three last months and first two months of a year. But this year it did not have enough orders even for December, he said.

VITAS chairman Vu Duc Giang said the American market was Vietnam's biggest and it is now expected to face many risks possibly due to that Government's monetary tightening policy.

The economic meltdown taking place in some European countries in recent years had also affected Vietnamese apparel exports, he said.

Jackets were the most affected items, with many firms seeing orders plunge 30 percent. Exports to Europe were forecast to decline by 10-15 percent.

Apparel exporters had to switch to other markets like Japan, the Republic of Korea, some other Asian countries, and Canada.

In addition, apparel exporters also faced other difficulties like high input costs since they had to import 80-90 percent of feedstock.

The minimum wage hike for workers to take effect in October would create more pressure on them since salaries made up 65 percent of their costs.

Nevertheless, Giang affirmed that the industry would surely reach its annual target of 13.5 billion USD in 2011, up 10 percent over 2010./.