Textile Industry: A fish in troubled waters

The textile industry has an immense contribution to the country’s economy as a whole and employs 100 million workers which makes it the second largest in generating employment opportunities in India after agriculture. The textiles and apparel industry in India have strengths across the entire value chain from fiber, yarn, fabric to apparel. It is highly diversified with a wide range of segments ranging from products of traditional handloom, handicrafts, wool, and silk products to the organized textile industry.
The organized textile industry is characterized using capital-intensive technology for mass production of textile products and includes spinning, weaving, processing, and apparel manufacturing.

The domestic textiles and apparel industry contribute 2.3% to India’s GDP and accounts for 13% of industrial production, and 12% of the country’s export earnings.

Contribution of different countries in the global home textile. Source : Textile Today

The Wave of Unemployment

A third of spinning mills have shut down amid lockdown in export and domestic sales leading to huge job losses. The cotton yarn export fell by 34.6% at $696 million in the quarter ending in June, shows the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCI&S). Due to the situation, more job cuts are inevitable. Sluggish exports and reduced consumer demand have resulted in production cuts. The cotton, jute, fiber, and wool industry is facing its worst time in nine years.There could be as many as one crore job cuts in the textiles sector, which has been severely hit by the ongoing lockdown, if there is no support and revival package from the government, according to apparel industry body Clothing Manufacturers Association of India. With around 80 percent of the garment industry mostly MSMEs, CMAI, having 3,700 members employing over 7 lakh people, said most of its members do not have the kind of reserves to see them through 3-6 months of this magnitude.

Impact on the Exports

India’s yarn exports are estimated to have nosedived 80-90 percent in April and are not expected to revive in a hurry. Yarn exports to major buyers like China and Bangladesh have declined due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, yarn exports are likely to slide 35-40 percent year-on-year during the ongoing fiscal 2020-21, according to Crisil Research.

“Indian merchandise exports fell 13 percent (in dollar terms) in the first quarter, and a steep 60 per cent in April, as the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown of national borders slammed global trade,” Crisil said in its latest ‘Covid Corollaries’. Exports of textiles and cotton yarn have been shredded, the report said. Though, it was coming apart even before the pandemic struck because of competition from Vietnam, Chinese stock liquidation and lack of free trade pact support

In the quarter that ended March 2020, India’s yarn exports contracted 30 percent as imports by China fell due to shuttered garment units there. China accounts for a third of India’s yarn exports. Imports by Bangladesh, which accounts for a fifth of India’s yarn exports, also declined, the report added.

“The US and the European Union, which together account for 64 per cent of India’s RMG (Resource Management Group) exports, are staring at a recession. The US is the worst-infected country now, and the pandemic-driven lock-down has ripped many apparel retailers there. Besides, a spike in unemployment and fall in personal incomes would cut spending on apparel,” the report said.

India’s yarn exports to slide 35-40% this fiscal year. Source : Ministry of Commerce India, CRISIL Research

The ‘Back on Track’ Undertaking

Textiles minister Smriti Zubin Irani has constituted five Technological Task Forces led by various IITs for the entire textiles value chain. IIT Madras would lead the group on indigenous machine manufacturing and machine tools while the setting up of local labs and promoting local tech is to be coordinated by IIT Bombay. The task forces were set up after Irani held discussions with Principal Scientific Adviser, scientists, technologists, and academicians on technological and manufacturing interventions in post Covid-19 situations in the textiles sector on Saturday.

Another task force will work on raw materials and waste product utilization technology in IIT Delhi. Boosting textile MSMEs and large data analytics for traditional sectors would be the responsibility of IIT Kharagpur.

IIT Kanpur, on the other hand, would focus on reorienting technology for weavers and handicraft artisans. Similarly, IIT Bhubaneswar will take up pilot studies for post Covid-19 handloom and handicraft reorientation, data integration of artisans and weavers and technological interventions in Odisha.

As per officials, another group of technical experts, led by IIT Kanpur, will conduct action plans covering various fibers for silk processing and industrial applications from waste silk material and IIT Kharagpur for jute diversification, jute cultivation productivity improvement, and industrial applications of jute including in geotextiles.

India, which did not make even a single corona virus protective gear kit earlier has become the second-largest manufacturer of PPE in the world whose global market worth is expected to be over $92.5 bn by 2025, up from $52.7 bn in 2019.

More than 600 companies in India are certified to produce PPEs today. Source : @Smritiirani, Twitter

India is now producing over 4.5 lakh Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suits daily, Union Minister Smriti Irani has said in a social media post. India has almost doubled its production rate in just two weeks – on May 5, the country was producing 2.06 lakh PPE kits daily.

While other businesses in the country are badly-struck due to the pandemic, the textile industry might show a linear growth post COVID-19.