LOSING THE THREAD

India Today|July 13, 2020

LOSING THE THREAD
India’s textile sector has a long way to go before it achieves economies of scale to challenge China’s dominance in world markets
SHWWETA PUNJ & M.G. ARUN

Once dubbed ‘Manchester of the East’, the textile town of Bhiwandi in Thane district, 40 km north of Mumbai, is today reeling under competition from the 25-30 per cent cheaper Chinese fabric. Ask Sharadram Sejpal, 58, a power loom owner here and spokesperson of the Bhiwandi Powerloom Association, why they can’t match Chinese pricing and he says: “Electricity is costlier here and taxes are high.” Ironically, 90 per cent of the power looms in India are cheap imports from China.

Over and above the cheap looms that sustain small loom owners such as Sejpal, India is dependent on China right across the entire textile value chain, starting with raw materials for textile production, the synthetic yarn, the fabric and even the final product, be it garments or home textiles. China is India’s fourth-largest trading partner in purified terephthalic acid (PTA), which goes into making polyester fabric, and the largest trading partner in polyester staple fibre (PSF), made using PTA as one of the inputs. In 2019, China exported around 41,000 tonnes of PTA to India. India imports $460 million worth of synthetic yarn mills used to make fabric and $360 million worth of synthetic or manmade fabric from China annually. It also imports over $140 million worth of accessories like buttons, zippers, hangers and needles. In February this year, the Centre removed anti-dumping duty—ranging from $27 to $160 per tonne—imposed earlier on PTA imports from China and other countries after the textile industry asked for it to reduce production cost and enhance global competitiveness. This would have been a further boost to PTA imports from China but for the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought all industrial activity to a near-standstill.

On the garments front, though China is the world’s largest exporter, when it comes to India, it is allegedly indulging in back-handed practices and routing garments through Bangladesh into the country. Chinese fabric is going into Bangladesh, being converted into garments and exported to India. These are 15-20 per cent cheaper than Indian garments. Bangladesh exported $499.09 million worth of garments to India in 2018-19. Indian fabric too goes to Bangladesh, is made into garments, and exported back to India, but in much smaller numbers than Chinese exports via Bangladesh. India also ships 20-25 million kg of cotton yarn a month to China, which is converted into cotton fabric and exported to other countries such as Bangladesh to be made into finished garments.

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July 13, 2020