Owing to a slowdown in conventional export markets, the textile ministry is focusing on Latin America & Japan to boost Indian textile exports. In an exclusive conversation with CNBC-TV18's Malvika jain, textile secretary Zohra Chatterji said that her ministry is seeking priority sector status from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
Below is the edited transcript of her interview on CNBC-TV18
Q: The trade data that was recently announced by the Commerce Ministry shows that in several sectors India's export performance has improved…. some attribute this to rupee depreciation. Do you see this as a long term trend? What steps is the textile Ministry taking to provide impetus to the sector?
A: Indeed our Ministry is extremely encouraged by the spurt in apparel exports which has taken place lately. It has been a 19 percent growth and we look forward to continued progress in this sector both on the export front and in our domestic market which has got a huge demand now.
We recently had a meeting, the Hon’ble Ministry of Textiles had a meeting with retailers and we discussed how we could put them in touch with our handloom clusters and provide an interface where better marketing linkages could be developed so that our handloom sector could also be brought closer to the consumer. The best of products and designs could be made available.
Q: If we look at the overall economic situation, the point till now was that India’s growth is domestic consumption driven but now we are seeing that the economy in India is not performing up to expectations. So in what sense can the textile sector which is one of the largest employers in the country after agriculture… contribute towards the growth of the economy and what kind of assistance is the Ministry providing to this sector?
A: We are looking at textiles as a very important contributor to the economy. It already contributes 11 percent to the GDP and it is indeed the biggest employer after agriculture. We propose to augment skill development in this sector by training 15 lakh people in this sector during the 12th plan and as you know the cabinet has recently cleared the integrated skill development programme so we think that this sector is poised for growth.
It is at an inflection point where it is really going to boom. The kind of incentives we are looking for this is priority sector lending especially for exports and some flexibility in labour laws so that the booming export orders could be serviced at this point. We have made some headway and we hope that you will hear some positive news in the days to come.
Q: There has been a proposal to link MNREGA with the export sector and possibly link it with relaxed labour norms. Has there been any development on this front?
A: Our minister has taken up this issue and he is of the firm view that there should be a linkage (between MNREGA and textile sector).
We are in dialogue with the Ministry of rural development as to how this could be brought about that while the rural youth get an opportunity for employment they are also able to pick up a skill along the way but it is at the dialogue stage yet.
Q: The cabinet took up a proposal to impose a duty on surplus cotton export. What view has the cabinet taken?
A: The effort of the textile ministry was to provide a stable, predictable and transparent policy by which interests of all stakeholders – farmers as well as the spinners are balanced and our raw material security is maintained for our domestic use whereas the farmers get the benefit of exports.
I believe that this has been discussed but I cannot say what is the decision on this but whatever decision is taken it would be after consensus between all the concerned ministries.
Q: There seems to be a slowdown in India’s conventional export markets. Are there any steps that the Ministry is taking to promote exports to other markets?
A: Yes we are actively looking at other markets, specially Latin America and in view of the FTA we are also looking at the Japanese market though that’s a very specialized market yet we mounted a show there of 153 apparel exporters just recently. We received a very good reception.
Our mission in Tokyo is also very active. Our textile Minister will be visiting there very soon and we hope that we will be able to get some Japanese investors in the textile sector to set up manufacturing in India and we have also recently signed MoUs with our neighbours – Bangladesh and Sri Lanka so manufacturing capacities could be combined to meet the export demands in a more effective way and our strength in cotton and yarn could synergise with capabilities for garment production.