Exporters on Wednesday again asked the government to let industry reopen even in the high-risk red zones, stating that losses are rising rapidly.
In a meeting with Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, major export promotion councils (EPCs) have pushed for the industrial units and office facilities across urban areas which are mostly in the coronavirus-hit red zone. This includes Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Indore, Kanpur, Agra, and Varanasi, among others.
“While factories in rural districts where the coronavirus is less prevalent can now open, it is not possible to keep business running, since the red zones often have the most important units or corporate offices. These are where records, documents, server systems and distribution points are based. It is impossible for an organization to operate with it’s key parts missing,” said.a senior functionary of an EPC.
“We have now asked the government to allow partial relaxation of lockdown with whatever conditions they can — reduced staff, fixed working hours, more sanitation norms. Industry needs to fully open soon,” another source said.
Exporters have pointed out that major industrial states such as Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka continue to deny industry permission to reopen even in areas designated as green zones. Others are yet to issue standard operating procedures based on which industry will evaluate its preparedness before applying for permission. Lack of key input materials due to logistics challenges, missing labor and an acute liquidity crunch also continues, the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), has pointed out.
As a result of these issues, exports have continued to suffer despite major chunks of the industry being officially allowed to reopen on April 20, multiple people present in the meeting, confirmed.
On the other hand, Goyal has exhorted industry to seize the opportunity of expanding rapidly in foreign markets in the post-Covid era, when there is expected to be perceptible change in the global supply-chains.and India should be looking to capture significant share in the world trade.
Goyal asked exporters to identify their strengths, potentials and competitive advantages in specific sectors, and focus on harnessing them in the world markets. Government will be a pro-active supporter and facilitator in their efforts, with Indian Missions abroad playing an important role, the minister stressed.
Interestingly, Goyal has assured exporters that government is open to extending export incentives, provided they are ‘justified, reasonable, and World Trade Organization-compliant’. “The Minister exhorted the Export promotion councils to undertake brainstorming sessions with its members, and come up with similar actionable, big-ticket ideas,” the Commerce Department said in a press release.
EPCs in participation represented apparels, gems, chemicals, engineering goods, pharmaceuticals and leathers, among others. Goyal added the ministry is working on identifying the specific sectors which can be pushed for aggressive promotion in the immediate future. He also pointed out that India is going to have a bumper Rabi harvest in the current season and exporters of agricultural and processed food items should seize the opportunity.
India’s exports contracted by 34.5 per cent in March, the steepest monthly fall in at least 25 years, as overseas demand remained lacklustre because of the coronavirus pandemic.