FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF’s DESK…
Why have associations softened their stand on Ministry role?
With general elections just around the corner and the focus of the ruling party on preparing for the same, it seems that activities around the textile and apparel industry have slowed down. No new initiative has been announced, nor do we hear of any delegation from any association visiting the Ministry to discuss the industry… A gentle calm has descended on the flurry of activities that are generally associated with the Textile Ministry. Only six months ago, all associations were coming out, all guns blazing and accusing the Ministry for not doing enough for the industry… But now for some reason, the tone and tenor of the same associations are soft and almost apologetic!
It is not as if they have forgotten the hardships. All associations admit that the industry has passed through one of the most difficult phases in its history and pulling out from the chaos created by many factors including Government policy changes, has been difficult. But when questioned on various issues, the standard reply today is that the Textile Minister and her team tried sincerely to support the industry, but there are other compulsions and we need to understand and appreciate these compulsions.
So, what has changed… Have the realities changed? Has the industry got back on its feat, or has the Ministry cracked down strongly on the associations to reign in their criticism, at least until the elections are over? Frankly, very little has changed on the ground… yes, refunds have started coming in, but not for all and the process is so tedious that the smaller exporters are facing a really tough time… One exporter, I met recently, cribbed about how he was not concentrating on running his business and getting orders, but rather on filling up the forms to get refunds and other benefits.
Also, it cannot be denied that majority of players in the industry are still struggling to keep factories running, and all sorts of compromises are being made right from picking up orders without profits to working with new buyers without verification, just to keep workers engaged. Of course, the weakening of the rupee has been the messiah, coming at the right time as far as the export industry is concerned to give a competitive edge to the industry in its core categories, in particular.
Many exporters dispute the claim that the industry has benefited from the currency devaluation, while few others admit that the same has been a respite.
The general feedback is that the buyers are smart businessmen and they fully understand the implications of the fluctuating currency and are openly asking that a certain percentage of the benefit accrued by the devaluation, be pushed in their direction. However, not all buyers are the same and many regular buyers have supported the industry in these difficult times and amicably worked around the prices so that their preferred suppliers could withstand the heat. Nothing remains the same and the industry has shown its resilience many times in the past… The real question today, is whether the Ministry will come out in open support, keeping all its promises made, once the elections are over...? It’s anybody’s guess!