Indian Textile Minister Smriti Irani has again urged buyers and buying houses to not cancel orders. While she appealed to the apparel buyers earlier, she is specifically requesting handicraft and carpet buyers this time around.
In her second video message, she has requested the overseas buying community and their representatives in India on behalf of the 7 million craftspersons spread across craft clusters in India and 20,000 exporters who are part of the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) and Carpet Export Promotion Council (CEPC), to not cancel any order.
She assured her Ministry is working with both the councils EPCH and CEPC to ensure that at this time of crisis, no one is left behind and all possible measures will be undertaken to stimulate growth in future. “This is the time for those who have enjoyed and commercialised the beauty of Indian crafts to step up,” the minister added.
India’s export of handicrafts to the EU was US $ 802.06 million in 2018-19 which is 21.09 per cent of the total handicrafts exports. The exports to this region have been on the increase for the past few years, but now due to pandemic, handicraft exporters are worried. Jodhpur, Moradabad, Agra, Delhi-NCR, Firozabad, and Jaipur are some of the leading hubs of handicraft in India. Overall, the handicrafts exports from India during the year 2018-19 were Rs. 26,590.25 crore.
Rakesh Kumar, DG, EPCH, informed that Indian handicrafts sector is facing a very serious economic crisis due to coronavirus pandemic. “Since it has compounded the exporters’ problems as on one hand, they are grappling with the state of lockdown in the country, stoppage of production schedules, payment of wages and overhead expenses, and on the other hand, their buyers are renegotiating the business terms with them,” he said.
Seeking support for the handicrafts sector by announcing a special package for the sector, EPCH also submitted a representation to PM Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Textiles and Ministry of Commerce & Industry. “We welcome the support so far announced by Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister of Finance, especially regarding the EPF contribution. It will certainly help the handicrafts sector, and we expect that many more such measures will be announced by the Government soon to stimulate growth in the handicrafts sector.”
The Buying Agents Association (BAA) and few big buyers have also given assurance to the exporting fraternity that the overseas buyers will continue their business as usual and will refrain from cancelling the orders.
Christine Rai, Chairperson, BAA, said, “We have also appealed to all stakeholders to be considerate and compassionate before taking any decision on orders and to think about many livelihoods which are at stake.” She further added that it is high time that everyone should step forward to help the millions of artisans and workers who are engaged in embroidery, apparel, hand carving, carpet weaving, metalworking, glass blowing and handloom textiles, so that they can continue producing the “magic of the gifted hands”. The BAA works to fulfil the expressed need of buying agents to get together formally and work to improve their standards and growth avenues.
Handicrafts exporters are really worried in this current situation, and are also looking forward to the Government support. Pranab Mahajan, Director, Mahajan Overseas, shared, “The entire industry needs support with the cancelled and on-hold orders. The amounts are huge, as the shipping during these months always remains high. Without the support of our buyers, things will become difficult to come back on track.” With the green factory in Sonipat (Haryana), Mahajan Overseas is one of the leading exporters of home furnishing; it also runs a Maspar brand in the Indian market.
Sanjeev Jain, President & CEO, TQM Global Sourcing, who has offices in Noida as well as Chittagong, shared a similar opinion, “I appreciate the Textile Minister’s call to the buyers and buying agents. Certainly, this will help the exporters to save their investments. At the same time, it is important that the Government should come to the rescue of the exporters aiding them to fight several other losses like bank charges, interests, fixed overhead, salaries etc. Many small exporters may not be able to take this for long. Buyers will look at their interest at the moment, and there are no high expectations from them. We need to fight our war. They look up to the Government to come to their help.”