The latest export figures show a further increase of 2 percent to €952 million for Portuguese shoes in the first eight months of 2008. Portuguese officials mention gains of 5.1 percent in Spain, 4.7 percent in Germany and 14 percent in Angola, and point out that shoe exports declined by 9 percent from Italy and by 13 percent from Spain in the first six months of the year.

The latest quarterly survey conducted by APICCAPS, the Portuguese shoe industry association, shows that two-thirds of the companies had stable production rates during the third quarter. Among the rest, the number whose output increased outnumbered those with lower production volumes.

Stable orders were reported by 60 percent of the companies in the sample, but 25 percent said their orders had gone down, or 11 percent more than one year earlier, indicating a decline in production levels for the current quarter.

While the growth rate seems to be slowing down, compared with the 8.1 percent increase of the last two years, Portugal appears to still be competitive because of its footwear manufacturing tradition and its relatively low labor costs.

However, the Portuguese government has just decided to raise the minimum monthly salary from €426 to €450 in January 2009 and to €500 by 2011.

The Portuguese shoe industry continues to invest heavily in its promotion in foreign markets, partly sustained by government funds. So far this year, 140 firms participated in fairs and other promotional activities in 15 markets, for a total investment of €8 million.

The industry is planning to launch a new international promotion program, called FOOTure, which would involve expenditures of €300 million until the year 2015.