After a 19.8 percent increase to €697 million in their exports for the first five months of 2011, compared with an increase of only 8.6 percent in imports to €233 million, Portuguese shoe manufacturers expect to reach a positive trade balance of €850 million for the full year in the sector. Portugal exports about 95 percent of its production to 132 different countries.

In terms of value, the official statistics show export increases for the five months of 10.8 percent in France, 21.4 percent in Germany, 22 percent in the Netherlands and 77 percent in Italy, partly offset by a 3.2 percent drop in the U.K. Outside the European Union, exports went up by 72.7 percent in Russia, by 21.8 percent in the U.S., by 28.6 percent in Japan and by 87.6 percent in Canada.

On the import front, the statistics show increases in value of 47.6 percent from China, 5.9 percent from Spain and 22.4 percent in Italy. In analyzing the figures, Apiccaps, the Portuguese shoe industry association, notes that the average price per pair of all imported shoes was €5.89, about one-fourth of Portugal's average export price of more than €19 a pair.

Portuguese shoe manufacturers are reaping the fruits of considerable investments in export promotion over the past years, including investments of €35 million made since 2008 with the help of the government. This year, 120 shoe companies will have spent about €11 million to participate in more than 70 international fairs.

This September, they will participate in 16 different events. Sixty firms will show at the GDS fair in Düsseldorf, 25 percent more than a year ago. More than 90 Portuguese companies will exhibit at the later Micam show in Milan.

The quarterly industry survey conducted by Apiccaps indicates a positive development in orders and production volumes for the second quarter of this year. The number of companies recording an increase in their order backlog was 16 percentage points higher than those that suffered a decline. Companies that don't have their own collections fared worse than the others.

Apiccaps' survey indicates that shoe production should continue to increase in Portugal in the second half of this year, but the growth in orders will likely slow down. Prices will continue to increase, especially on the export front. Average prices have continued to go up for the sixth quarter in a row, with the number of companies reporting higher prices overtaking those that charged less by 9 percentage points. Stable prices were reported by 79 percent of the firms.