Brazil continues to export a lot more shoes than it is importing, but the difference is diminishing, leading Brazilian shoe industry officials to ask for governmental help. Millton Cardoso, president of the Brazilian shoe industry association, Abicalçados, reiterated the urgency of taking emergency import protection measures.

Employment in the sector declined by 8.6 percent in 2008, and it went down by a further 9.6 percent in the first quarter of this year, Abicalçados reports.

In the first three months of 2009, Brazil's total shoe exports declined by 26 percent in value to $384.6 million, and they dropped in volume by 24.8 percent to 40.7 million pairs, indicating a slight decline in the average price.

Theexport statistics for the first four months of 2009 show even more serious declines of 33.5 percent in value and 33.4 percent in volume. Sales fell in sharply in April not only in the U.S., but also in many European countries and in Argentina.

On the other hand, over the same period Brazil's shoe imports surged by 45.3 percent in volume to 13.1 million pairs, while their value increased by 15.6 percent to $101 million. The biggest growth came from China.