With the ongoing India-China border standoff, many businesses and traders across the country, as a mark of protest, have decided to boycott or terminate contracts and deals that were made with the neighbouring nation. Toeing the line, a segment of knitwear exporters from Tirupur also made a resolve to boycott Chinese accessories in garment manufacturing.
A total of 1,000 garment exporters, who were part of the Tirupur Exporters and Manufacturers Association (TEAMA) resolved to boycott Chinese products in garments manufacturing and instead rely only on alternatives manufactured in other parts of India. “After years of dependence on China for their cheap accessories, the garment exporters identified Ludhiana in Punjab as a potential alternative market for procuring fabrics and Delhi for buttons and zips. It was also planned that certain products would be sourced from local manufacturers despite the cost working up to more than 20 per cent. Unfortunately, our plan failed to take off,” said MP Muthurathinam, president of TEAMA.
Besides the fear of losing out in the competitive international market over cost factor, the disruption of import of Chinese products through legal route may give way for dumping Chinese garments through Bangladesh, thereby forcing garment manufacturers to pull out from their plan. India has a free trade agreement (FTAs) with Bangladesh.
“There is even a possibility of Chinese garments getting sold with a Made in India tag at a much cheaper rate. If that happens then the knitwear industry in Tirupur, which has already been battling a host of issues, may take a severe hit. So things have gone to square one with imports continuing from China as usual. There was some initial delay in clearance by customs, but things have returned almost to normal now,” added Muthurathinam.
Yet, garment exporters believe that it is not the end of the road and there is still scope to make ‘Make in India’ a reality in the knitwear sector. “For that to happen, the government should create a road map to boost manufacturing of fabric and other accessories by domestic firms. It could be through infusing more funds into the manufacturing sector and by levying focus on skill development. With these measures, the knitwear hub of Tirupur may rule out Chinese imports in a few years. The Chinese influence in our garment industry grew in the last two decades after globalisation. Until then, our requirements were fulfilled only through domestic produce,” said Kumar Duraisamy, an apparel exporter. Currently, the manufacturers have been importing more than 70 per cent of their requirements like zips, buttons, and fabrics, besides machineries for printing, embroidery, sewing and knitting from China.