Sanganer, the suburban hub of the hand-block printed textile industry near Jaipur, is shorn of its usual vibrancy and colour. Exporters of the prized Sanganeri textile say altered consumption patterns and diminished purchasing power in their primary markets — the US and Western Europe — will continue to hurt their livelihoods long after the lockdown is lifted.
Countries, such as the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Italy — most of which are among the worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic — accounted for 30 per cent of the overall export of hand-printed textiles from India in 2018-19, states the data released by Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts.
The sector was trying to emerge from the aftereffects of the implementation of GST when the pandemic struck. In the financial year 2018-19, exports had dipped 36 per cent year-on-year in the aforementioned countries because of the implementation of GST, said officials of Jaipur-based Federation of Rajasthan Handicraft Exporters (Forhex).
“Because of the implementation of GST in mid-2017, the cost of handicraft textile manufacturing in India increased 10 per cent, and at the same time, Bangladesh made their products’ prices more competitive, which resulted in the foreign buyers choosing the latter over us,” said Atul Poddar, secretary, Poddar Associates, and founding member of Forhex.
Rajasthan-based exporters of hand-printed textiles say orders worth Rs 1,000 crore ($132 million), which were in production and ready to ship, have been cancelled for the months of March and April 2020. The paying capacity of overseas buyers may also reduce for the short to medium term, exporters fear.
“They are not in a position to pay us our dues right now,” Poddar said. “They are asking for a payment date of up to 120 days. There is a possibility that even after three-four months they might just raise their hands and file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. So we are in a very precarious situation.”