Chennai: Over 400 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) involved in apparel and garments manufacture and exports in Tamil Nadu have appealed to the Chief Minister, Edappadi K Palaniswami not to extend the lockdown, imposed in the wake of the Covid-19 novel coronavirus crisis, as any further shutdown of the industry would spell their ruin.
While the garment industry has already undergone "huge losses" since the lockdown took effect from March 25, this latest 12-day 'intense lockdown", since May 19 to June 30 in Chennai, Kancheepuram, Chengalpattu and Thiruvallur districts, has "caused immense delays and fallouts with international clients who have now not been able to get deliveries of the goods they were supposed to get by end of June," said Mr. Nishant Jain, honorary secretary, of Apparel and Handloom Exporters Association.
The Association, which is the voice of over 400 MSMEs' in the apparels and garment making and export sector in the districts of Chennai, Kancheepuram, Chengalpattu, Thiruvallur, Madurai and Salem districts for the last 35 years to 40 years, says apparel exports is a "seasonal business". The key to survival is quality and timely delivery schedule in fulfilling the contract with foreign buyers.
He said "winter goods cannot be sold in summer and vice-versa, and there are huge penalties for delay. The dependability of the supplier is judged on on-time deliveries in correct quality."
Further about 1.50 lakh skilled workers, 90 per cent of whom are women, are directly employed by these companies. As they are specially trained in stitching and making clothes, they do not have any other source of livelihood to fall back upon.
Further, the industry employs over ten lakh people indirectly in Tamil Nadu, from the ancillary units of yarn mills, weaving, processing, dyestuff making, labels and tags making, corrugated boxes manufacture, printers, embroidery units etc., he drew attention to.
This year, due to the prolonged lockdown since March, he pointed out, the apparel industry has already faced many order cancellations by international companies.
After restarting the companies recently and trying to "resurrect part of the orders with great difficulty", on the condition of timely deliveries, is now again threatened to be derailed at this juncture.
While the post-lockdown social distancing norms has already placed limits on full capacity utilisation in all the factories, Mr. Jain said the goods being manufactured now have to be exported between June and September so that they can be put on display in overseas shops between August and November, in time for the coming holiday season and Christmas.
If the goods are delivered late, the clients will cancel the orders and move to other buyers from other countries like China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Cambodia for sourcing their requirements, he explained.
Hence, Mr. Jain said any further lockdowns in greater Chennai and surrounding districts "will result in very huge number of order cancellations to the tune of approximately US dollars 150 million" for these MSMEs' and a "complete loss of faith" among international clients, besides throwing lakhs of skilled Indian workers out of jobs.
Stating that the results of these will be "catastrophic", Mr. Jain said, "the industry expects the government to understand the long term disaster it will cause by extending the lockdown or having any further lockdown and which will ultimately land up killing an industry that has been the mainstay for millions of workers and the largest employer after agriculture in the State for over 40 years."