India misses the clothing cut

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Published: May 5, 2015 12:54:26 AM

India has failed to take advantage of a slowdown in China’s textile and garment exports as also persisting global concerns about violations of labour norms in Bangladesh in recent years.

India has failed to take advantage of a slowdown in China’s textile and garment exports as also persisting global concerns about violations of labour norms in Bangladesh in recent years, while tiny Vietnam seems to have emerged as the largest beneficiary, reports Banikinkar Pattanayak in New Delhi.

An analysis of export trends of key nations shows that while the average annual growth rate of Chinese textile and clothing (T&C) exports slowed to 6.1% since 2012 (it was as high as 20.1% in 2011), India has managed to perform only a tad better, with an average expansion rate of 8.2% in the last three years.

clothing

Vietnam, however, clocked an impressive 15.8% growth rate in its T&C exports since 2012. Even Bangladesh, despite facing an international backlash for poor labour standards following a number of tragedies at its garments units that claimed hundreds of lives in recent years and resulted in some global retailers cutting down on their garment orders, managed to perform decently with a 7.8% growth rate since 2012.

Indian industry executives say inadequate incentives, excessive emphasis on cotton fibre and handlooms by the government, flip-flop in raw material policy, faulty duty structure in the man-made fibre segment where imports of certain raw materials (like PTA) are taxed higher than those of finished products and inflexible labour laws — particularly those relating to the garment sector — have constrained growth in the textile and apparel sector. A vision document, aimed at raising the country’s textile and clothing exports, including handicrafts, to $300 billion by 2024-25 from the current $41 billion, is still waiting to be taken up by the Cabinet, even 10 months after the Ajay Shankar panel had submitted it.

The withdrawal of certain export incentives in the recently-announced foreign trade policy 2015-20 is going to make it even more difficult for domestic exporters.

With China gradually shifting from labour-intensive industries (like garments) to capital-intensive ones due to soaring wage costs, India is unlikely to capitalise on that opportunity if it fails to address the structural issues plaguing the sector at the earliest.

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