SURAT REPORT

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Four months of Lockdown & Unlock : Synthetic textile industry lost 20,000+ crores of business 

The corona pandemic has hit hard human life as well as the industry and business. A Lockdown was declared on March 24 across the country to avoid infection outbreaks. The production activity in the textile industry chain was stalled for a long period. From yarn to finished fabrics, the entire synthetic textile industry of Surat has come to a standstill. And now, increasing Covid-19 cases has halted the revival in synthetic textiles hub. The experts says the local textile industry has lost more than 20 thousand crores production and business during the four months of Lockdown and Unlock.

Two months after the lockdown, with certain conditions, the industry was allowed to start work. But even in the two months of Unlock, the production process is still irregular. The demand of finished fabrics is limited across the country due to the fear of Coronavirus. Shortage of workers in almost all the segments of textile industry is a big issue. The production cost with maintenance is unbearable. Payment delay is another big problem.

Out of the estimated 350 textile processing mills, only 50-60 are operating. Only 10-12 per cent of the five lakh powerloom machines are functioning. As there is lack of value addition work, about ninety per cent of embroidery machines are shut. The textile markets are operating according to odd/even rule. Out of 65,000 shops, estimated 25–30 per cent remain open daily but the business activities are negligible.

The chairaman of Pandesara Weaving Society, Ashish Gujarati said, after the Lockdown, the powerloom factories in the city and surrounding area were completely shut till May 17. The government has given some relief and allowed to start factory in Lockdown-4 and Unlock by following certain rules. However, even today, only 10 percent of the five lakh machines are operating. Before the lockdown, the production of fabrics was about 25 million meters per day. But today, daily production is barely 10 percent ie. 25 lakh meters. Besides this, considering workers wages, fix charges, electricity cost, loan and general maintenance expenditure in the factory; the overall production cost of the fabric has increased three to four times. In the four months of Lockdown-Unlock, only weaving industry has a production loss of more than 5000 crores.

The national lockdown, began on March 24, has put Surat’s textile industry in a uncertain mode. The looms and other related textile activities are suffering huge losses. As per industry estimates, in the yarn, processing, weaving, trading and other associated synthetic textile chain, Surat’s textile trade has lost businesses to the tune of Rs 20,000 crore in the past four months.

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Odd-even rule for textile markets : Many traders declares ‘self lockdown’ 

More than 170 textile markets are in the city functioning as per odd-even rule imposed by Surat Municipal Corporation(SMC). As the Covid-19 cases are increasing, the SMC has issued new directives for the textile markets and had given permission to the Federation of Surat Textile Traders Association (FOSTTA) for all shops in textile markets to remain open between 10 am and 5 pm. This was enforced with guidelines such as shops remaining open as per an odd-even rule, maintaining social distance and the mandatory use of face masks and sanitisers.

A meeting of Principal Secretary (Health and Family Welfare) Jayanti Ravi, SMC officials and  textile industry members, was held on 12th July. The textile industry in the city was allowed to reopen with stricter guidelines that included shops remain open as per an odd-even rule, compulsory wearing of masks, staggered entry into the markets to maintain social distancing, workers downloading the Aarogya Setu application and compulsory installation of foot-operated washbasins.

Rangnath Sharda, the director of Federation Of Surat Textile Traders Association (FOSTTA) said, Approximately, 30 percent shops are open in the market, but the pace of business is very slow. Due to the weak demand of saris, dress material, kurtis and and other fabrics in the domestic market, the traders open their shops for a few hours only. Traders are under financial stress and are clearing old stocks and managing their payments.Textile power looms and dyeing and printing mills are not fully operational, less than 20 percent are currently functioning.

As of July 30, more than 12 thousand Covid cases had been reported in the city, many of them textile and diamond industry workers. New hotspots are emerging in the city and an average of 200 Covid-19 cases and about 10 deaths being reported daily. Sharp rise in Covid-19 cases across the city has sparked off widespread panic among the textile business communities. Looking at the safety, many textile traders have declared a self-lockdown and shut their shops upto 31st July.

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Weavers demands relief of Rs 1 per unit in electricity bill

The powerloom machine operator, weavers has demanded a relief of one rupee per unit in the electricity bill. In a memorandum submitted to the district collector, they have also appealed for the discharge of the delayed charge in the bill.

Weavers said that factories have started in Unlock-1 but the production process is still not regular. The textile markets are operating on odd/even rule and sharp decline is being seen in grey fabrics demand. Many powerloom factories are operating five days a week and that too in single Shift. There is a shortage of workers and the production of fabrics is also limited. The workers are demanding more wages. The production cost of fabrics for factory operators have increased. If the situation does not improve, there is a fear of closure of a large number of power lomm factories. At such a time, the weavers has demanded a relief of one rupee per unit in the electricity bill and exemption from the delayed charge in the electricity bill.

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Appeal for payment through online/internet banking

In a view of the prevailing situation of Covid-19, weavers has appealed to the traders for online/internet banking payment to make less movement in the market area. A letter has been written to FOSTTA to issue an authorization to adopt online payment.

After the lockdown, the textile market was allowed to start from June 1(Unlock-1). Cases of corona infection have increased due to the large number of people moving here and there. In these circumstances, to prevent the outbreak, it is necessary that there must be less traffic in the market. Powerloom owner Mayur Golwala said, hundreds of weavers and staff people visit the market daily to collect the payment. In order to reduce the movement in the market, the traders are requested to adopt option of digital payments.