SynopsisThe next six months will be tough, an exporter said, worried that a long spell of lockdowns could cost them the Christmas business season. With garment units shut in some states including Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, exporters are also worried about the possibility of not fulfilling their existing orders.
India’s apparel exporters are at risk of losing the bulk of their orders to competitors in countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan because many of them are not able to send samples to global brands amid Covid-19 lockdowns.
Exporters in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, for example, fear their order flow will come down by half in four months because this month they could not dispatch samples to help global brands prepare new collections.
“Yesterday, we received a mail from an Australian buyer saying they would prefer to move out of India for the September season because we have not sent the samples,” said CMN Muruganandan, a partner at Gomatha International, an exporter in Tamil Nadu’s garment super-hub of Tiruppur.
The next six months will be tough, he said, worried that a long spell of lockdowns could cost them the Christmas business season.
With garment units shut in some states including Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, exporters are also worried about the possibility of not fulfilling their existing orders.
“We have the strongest order book as the US is booming and Europe is reopening. Not fulfilling orders now can lead to cancellations,” said Kulin Lalbhai, executive director at Arvind, a large exporter with about a dozen units in Karnataka, Gujarat and Jharkhand.
“Some of our competing countries are operating their garment units though they are battling a bigger spread of infection,” he said. “We could manage last year because the world was also under a lockdown.”
Exporters have called upon central and state governments to let them reopen and clear large order backlogs.
Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) chairman A Sakthivel has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to exempt apparel exports from lockdowns like many other countries have done.
While curfews and disruption in supply chains threaten the existence of smaller businesses, leading players are concerned about the reputation of Indian manufacturers in global markets.
“Most of apparel exports are season- and fashion-sensitive, and their salvage value becomes zero if the production and shipment are not done in time,” Sakthivel told ET. Any defaults in supply from Indian manufacturers will only help competing countries walk away with orders, he said.
Garment exports from the country in April jumped nine times year on year, mostly on the back of strong demand from the US and Europe, Sakthivel said.
Last year, there was a strong anti-China sentiment that the Tiruppur garment industry benefitted from, until the outbreak of the second wave. “Without handling the second wave, we are creating doubts in the minds of western brands about whether India is dependable,” said Raja M Shanmugham, president of Tiruppur Exporters Association (TEA).
“We are already running late in delivering samples and orders. And in this situation, buyers will merely say that the products cannot be accommodated in the current collection and will either cancel or ask for discounts,” he said.
Emails sent to global garment brands H&M, Mothercare, Tesco and Primark did not elicit any response until press time on Wednesday.
Gokaldas Exports managing director Sivaramakrishnan Ganapathi said garment units have put in place strong Covid-19 protocols to ensure employee safety and are working towards vaccinating workers. Gokaldas operates 15 units in Karnataka.
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