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Cottons, chiffons to tailor growth of apparel exports

Greater Noida, July 16 (Calcutta Tube) Indian apparel exporters and manufacturers are falling back on low cost cotton, chiffons and Western-style pret outfits to rev up business in a flagging market.

Around 300 exporters displayed their spring-summer collections at the three-day 45th India International Garments’ Fair here. Mostly casual wear, these were described as ‘low value and low fashion, meant to give Indian exporters an edge in competitive pricing’.

Eightly percent of India’s clothes exports are to Britain and the US, where cheap cotton apparel from India is sought after both as a fashion statement and as health utility wear.

‘We are looking at new markets like South Africa and Japan this year. Next week, we will be in Tokyo, the capital of Japan, for the International Fashion Fair,’ a spokesperson of Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC), one of the organisers of the fair, told IANS.

‘We had invited a delegation of designers from Japan a couple of weeks ago to sensitise Indian designers to the needs of the Japanese markets. Japan experiences six fashion seasons and they order smaller quantities of clothes.’

Indian apparel exports to Japan have increased from $129 million in 2008 to $134 million in 2009. ‘The demand for pret wear from India is also picking up in South Africa,’ he added.

The collections were a fusion of Indian textiles, traditional embellishments and ethnic prints with Western cuts and colours in vogue across the US, Britain, eastern Europe, Japan, Hong Kong, South Africa and Australia regions, which make up the bulk of India’s apparel export market.

‘While our exports are falling, exports from low cost countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam and Cambodia continue to rise. Bangladesh today exports apparel worth $13 million, which is roughly 20 percent more than Indian garment exports,’ said Premal Udani, chairman of AEPC.

According to data released by AEPC, garment export from India dropped by 2.64 percent to $10.64 billion in 2009-10 compared to $10.93 billion of exports in the financial year 2008-09.

The first two months of the current financial year have shown a decrease of 5.23 percent.

The 300 exporters at the 45th India International Garments’ Fair at the India Exposition Centre that closed July 14 suggested that various factors have made Indian garments uncompetitive in the world market.

Among these are an unprecedented rise in the prices of raw materials – both cotton and yarn – in the past few months, an increase in overhead costs like wages of labour brought about by inflation, hike in the duty of petroleum products, frequent fluctuations in the rupee-euro-dollar exchange ratio and sluggish recovery of the global economy.

The fair organised by AEPC, the International Garments’ Fair Association, and four leading apparel exporters’ and manufacturers’ organisations drew more than 800 buyers from over 600 companies, nearly 560 buying agents from around 400 firms and a little over 1,700 visitors across the globe.

Carol Hanian, the head of a 12-member buying mission from Australia, said: ‘We are looking for cotton-based women’s wear in bright colours and individualistic designs.’

‘Australian consumers are quality conscious. My team is exploring prospects of long-term business opportunities with Indian exporters,’ she said.

Premal Udani, chairman of AEPC, said: ‘Indian apparel exporters have an ambitious target to export apparel worth $15 billion by the year 2011-12.

He appealed to the government to speed up a pending free-trade agreement between India and the European Union (EU), which could increase Indian apparel exports to Europe by over $3 billion.

The apparel industry in the country employs nearly nine million people, which includes 50 percent women.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at madhu.c@ians.in)

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