Indian silk losing its sheen overseas

Tuesday, 22 July 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Chinese competition, changing trends and slow pickup in demand in the European and the U.S. markets has made the going tough for Indian silk.

As against exports worth $465 million last year, the Indian silk industry set a target of $500 million -- including made-ups or upholstery, fabrics and garments, particularly embellished party wear -- for 2003-04.

"As things stand we may not be able to achieve the target unless the demand picks up in the U.S. and E.U. (European Union). In some of the silk products we are losing out to competition from China while products like carpets and garments are the biggest casualty of the continuing recession in the U.S. and Europe," Subhash Mittal, chairman of the Indian Silk Export Promotion Council, told IANS.

While overall Indian exports are showing robust growth of over the targeted 12 percent, the overseas demand for some products like silk carpets and embellished readymade garments is not good.

"We are recording negative growth in export of silk carpets and readymade silk garments, unlike those made with other fabrics," said Mittal.

The textiles ministry has asked the silk industry body to organise a weeklong promotion, including fashion shows, to revive buyer interest.

However it is not just competition in terms of price but also trends that are affecting Indian silk exports, according to P. Jacob Samuel, president of the Silk Garment Association of India.

"Fashions abroad have changed and there is no longer much demand for silk chiffons and soft georgettes and sequin value adds that Indian exporters persist with. They seem to have run out of ideas and are exporting what they know best how to make and not what the market needs," said Samuel.

In sharp contrast, China, South Korea and Italy have come up with a new blended silk, which is very much in vogue.

"Being out of sync with global demands, our silk garment exports have been coming down. If no concerted efforts are made, the decline will continue and we will not be able to achieve our annual exports of around 2 billion this year," said Samuel.

While silk garment exports are witnessing around 30 percent drop, in the case of carpets there is a 25 percent fall, said O.P. Garg, managing director of Overseas Carpet Ltd. and former chairman of the Carpet Export Promotion Council of India.

"The demand for hand-woven carpets is increasing, but Indian exports have been down for the last one year as we are not able to match Chinese prices. The high cost of raw material imported from China, the high transaction costs and appreciation of rupee against the dollar are all making Indian carpets lose out to competition," explained Garg.

Though India has been trying to reverse the decline in hand-woven carpet exports through development of new designs and better finish, exporters feel more publicity is essential.

With the main Indian tourist season set to begin from August end, carpet exporters are banking on the government to make good its budgetary promise to help reduce the transaction costs by providing access to loans at lower interest rates and reducing other overheads like high sales tax and octroi.

Exploring ways to boost exports, the Indian Silk Export Promotion Council is planning a seminar in August or September at Bhagalpur, a silk hub in Bihar, to bring together weavers, manufacturers, traders and exporters to map out a new strategy.

"We are also awaiting grants from the government to undertake promotion activities overseas and hold buyer-seller meets," said council chairman Mittal.

"A proposal to engage the services of designers and researchers to develop new varieties of silk is also under study and will be put to the textile ministry for funding soon."

Source: IANS
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