‘Apparel industry should aspire for double digit share in exports’

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New Delhi: Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday said the country’s apparel industry must aim to capture double-digit share in global fabric exports from the current level of 5-6 per cent.

The Vice President also called for upskilling textile and apparel workers and adopting the latest technologies to gain competitiveness in exports and to capture the global market.

“We should aspire to soon reach a double-digit share in exports of fabrics from the current 5-6 per cent,” Naidu said while inaugurating a virtual platform of Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC).

The Vice President said the sector should ponder upon the reasons why India, despite being the leading producer and exporter of cotton, jute, silk and MMF yarns, lacks the competitive edge in fabrics and apparels when compared to Bangladesh and China.

“They are the biggest buyers of Indian yarn. They add value to it and sell the fabrics and apparels at a lower cost than India. This is largely due to the unorganised and dispersed nature of the weaving sector in India. We need to have more Tirupurs,” he said.

Noting that the share of India in global textile exports was just 6 per cent, the Vice President said the small scale businesses need hand-holding and should be supported in scaling up and improving the quality to match global competitors. He commended the Niti Aayog’s plans to work with the textiles ministry to set up mega textile firms to boost exports.

“One of the proposed projects of the NITI Aayog this year is to work with the textile ministry to set up mega textile firms to boost our exports in both fabric and garment sectors. This is a welcome initiative. I call upon the private sector to partner with the government and innovate in the textiles sector to improve the exports,” he said.

Naidu also said that though we have a strong base of raw material and manpower, we are lagging in global fabric exports because of the small size of average firms and the use of outdated technology.

Naidu said India’s competitive edge and core strength should come from skilled manpower and not just cheap manpower.

“Unless the average size of the apparels firm grows, adopts latest technologies and possesses skilled manpower, we cannot manufacture quality items and export at competitive prices. Only this way, we can exploit the full employment and economic potential of the industry,” he added.

The Vice President asked the textile entrepreneurs to diversify their manufacturing portfolio to suit the changing global demands and tap newer markets. He also underlined the importance of branding in adding value to apparel products and advised the entrepreneurs to work on brand-building.

Through such efforts, along with the cooperation of the states, the support from the Ministry of Textiles and the initiatives of AEPC in promoting exports, India should aspire to soon reach a double-digit share in exports of fabrics from the current 6 per cent, he added.

Naidu appreciated the recently announced Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for man-made fibres (MMF) and technical textiles by the government.

He also lauded the efforts of AEPC and the textiles ministry for promoting manufacturing and export of medical textiles (PPE kits, face shields, masks and gloves) during the pandemic.

As a result of these concerted efforts, India today stands at the second position in the world in the manufacturing of PPE Kits, the Vice President said.

Referring to the important role played by the textiles sectors in the economy, Naidu noted that it was the second-largest employer and provides direct employment to about 45 million people.

He said the sector can play a major role in tapping the potential of our demographic dividend. It is also a very important foreign exchange earning industry for India, contributing to about 12 per cent in our export earnings.

He congratulated AEPC and its 8,600 member exporters for their entrepreneurial spirit in creating their own virtual platform for export promotion.

“I am confident that all these efforts along with the support of the Ministry will boost Indian apparel exports. We should soon aspire to reach a double-digit share in export of fabrics with proper encouragement and branding,” Naidu said.

The virtual exhibition platform will showcase Indian apparels round the year and will host B2B meetings. Considering the travel restrictions due to COVID-19 pandemic, the platform is seen as a better alternative in terms of both economy and convenience.

Textiles Minister Smriti Irani said the Indian apparel industry created world history by establishing a US$ 1 billion personal protective equipment (PPE) and N95 mask industry in the midst of pandemic in just two months.

“Reflecting the same enterprise, AEPC has now created a virtual platform. It will give rise to opportunities for over 300 top exporters in the country. But knowing that AEPC is an 8,600-member family, I am hopeful that the platform especially gives space to those who innovate, who belong to the SME segment, who are start-ups as young innovators need a supporting hand,” Irani said.

AEPC Chairman A Sakthivel requested the Vice President to use his good offices for expediting free trade agreements and comprehensive economic partnership agreements with the US, EU, UK, Canada and Australia.

He also urged the international buyers to request their respective governments for fast-tracking the trade agreements with India.

“These deals can double Indian apparel exports in three years,” Sakthivel said.