Orders aplenty, but labour crunch hits garment makers - ECAS Punjab

Orders aplenty, but labour crunch hits garment makers

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Vijay C Roy and Shivani Bhakoo

tribune news service

Chandigarh/Ludhiana, July 30

Dwindling exports continue to haunt garment exporters in the state. Despite demand from the major export markets of the United States and the European Union, the industry is not in a position to cash in on the opportunity. Reason: Acute shortage of labourers, mainly tailors. Some units are running with 25 to 30 per cent of the total workforce, and many are coping with even smaller percentage of labourers.

Over 15 to 20 per cent of the nation's total exports come from Punjab, with Ludhiana being the major hub.

According to data, India exported garments worth $1.45 billion (10,955 crore in rupees) in the quarter ending June 2020, against $4.17 billion (29,008 crore in rupees) in the corresponding period last year.

The exporters maintain there is no dearth of orders from countries like the US, European and Middle East countries. However, they are not taking fresh orders, as they fear their execution won't be carried out within the stipulated time in the absence of labourers and adherence to the Covid-19 norms. For tailors, the industry is dependent on migrants from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa.

"The Indian exporters had started getting many queries from overseas buyers, who were keen to place the orders. However, since the labourers have returned to their native places, the industry is wary of accepting fresh orders. Besides, the workers seem to be in no mood to return in near future because of the Covid-19 scare, thus affecting the production," said Narinder Chugh, managing director of Ludhiana-based Million Exporter (P) Ltd.

Neeraj Arya, managing director, Different Garments Pvt Ld, said he was coping with 33 per cent of the total workforce. Similarly, Rohan Dheer, partner at Puneet Knitwear, said he was working on an export consignment with a 30 per cent workforce.

Exporters opined the industry was going through a rough patch in the absence of skilled labourers. "We were facing a lot of difficulties, and had to shell out Rs 30,000 to call back four workers from UP and Bihar. We met with the DGM of Railways on Sunday, and have appealed to him to call back the labourers, as it is a crucial time for us. If we do not start manufacturing now, we will repent throughout the year," said Mridula Jain from Shingora Shawls.

One of the manufacturers had recently paid Rs 1 lakh to a private bus operator to ferry back 18 to 19 workers from their native places.

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