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Steps to boost Indian apparel exports on anvil

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India's textiles ministry is mulling a series of measures to boost export of readymade garments (apparel) despite growing competition from countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam, Kampuchea and China, a senior official said Monday.

"We are chalking out a two-pronged strategy to accelerate apparel exports in the short-term and medium-term, as the readymade garments segment has a huge potential to increase our market share in traditional and new markets worldwide," textiles ministry Joint Secretary V. Srinivas told reporters here.

For the short-term, the ministry has set an export target of $18 billion (Rs.99,000 crore) for this fiscal (2012-13), which is 32 percent higher (YoY) than $13.6 billion achieved in last fiscal (2011-12).

"In the medium term, our export target is $50 billion for the 12th Five-Year Plan, which ends in 2016-17. To achieve the ambitious target, we are enhancing the technology upgradation funding scheme to Rs.15,808 crore, anticipating an investment of Rs.1.5 trillion (Rs.150,000 crore) over the next five years," Srinivas said on the margins of an interactive session with about 60 apparel exporters from across the country.

The apparel export segment, comprising small and medium enterprises availed the technology upgradation fund scheme of Rs.15,404 crore during the 11th Plan (2007-12) by investing Rs.1.4 trillion (Rs.140,000 crore) during the past five years.

"As a major employment generator, the segment has the potential to create one million jobs for an investment of $1 billion (Rs.5,500 crore). An integrated skill development scheme will be launched to train the workforce for operating sewing machines," Srinivas pointed out.

In collaboration with the Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC), the ministry will set up an apparel park at Tapukara in Rajasthan's Alwar district and a hosiery park at Jagdishpur in West Bengal's Howrah district on the lines of Brandix India Apparel Park at Atchutapuram in Andhra Pradesh's Vishakapatnam to aggregate the fragmented sector and create clusters.

"In addition, we are setting up two more apparel technology machines centres to manufacture knitwear machines at Ludhiana in Punjab and Kolkata in West Bengal on the lines of the centre being set up at Tirupur in Tamil Nadu," Srinivas noted.

To help the council and its member exporters to consolidate their presence in Japan, Europe and the US and accelerate the growth rate to meet the $50-billion target by 2017, the ministry will work with the stakeholders to improve the fabric quality and enhance processing through an integrated processing help scheme.

"With Japan abolishing the 20 percent import tariff on Indian apparel under the comprehensive economic partnership agreement between the two countries, the far eastern country offers huge potential to accelerate our apparel exports," Srinivas observed.

Similarly, the ministry is working with the council to double the Indian market share of four percent in Europe and the US markets by participating in more apparel trade fairs and setting up benchmarks for common compliance code with competing countries.

"As Europe and the US account for about 80 percent of the country's apparel exports, a task force will be set up to improve the quality from fabric to garment, train skilled workforce and reduce overheads to improve margins," said APEC chairman A.S. Sakthivel.

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