Hoisery export hub languishes

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Hoisery export hub languishes

By ENS

10th January 2011 01:01 PM

For Belgaum, the months between June and December meant big business till some years ago.

The city was a major hub for hosiery products, especially sweaters, in South India.

But the changing dynamics of business have left the city with little work for the winter months.

"June to December every year was peak season for our business," said Bharamagouda Ninganagoudra of Patil Knitting Works.

"We have forgotten that kind of winter in the recent years," he said, adding that this year, they received orders for sweaters only towards the fag end of December.

The rise and the fall

Hosiery products of the city were once exported to countries like Afghanistan and South Africa, apart from being sold all over the India.

Sweater knitting was a smallscale industry that was the bread and butter of hundreds of households. Today, there are only around 10 such units functional in the city.

According to industry sources, the hosiery industry started here in the preIndependance days of 1920s. It was boomtime till the 1960s when cotton took over as an important export crop.

The industry in Belgaum further took a beating when Tirupur in Tamil Nadu and Ludhiana in Punjab entered the knitwear industry.

Ludhiana, that earlier sold yarns to Belgaum, grew as the new hub of hosiery products in the last couple of decades of the 20th century.

Tirupur also made its name as a textile city during the same period.

Competition killing trade

"Increase in the prices of raw materials, uncertain climate, lack of skilled workers, competition of seconds sale, heavy taxes and negligence of the government are the main reasons for this slowdown," said Basavaraj Jalihal of Jalihal Knitting works.

His wife Rajashri said another important reason was the lack of organised strategy from the industry to face competition.

Sanmati Kasturi of Gomtesh Hosiery pointed out that the price of yarn increased to Rs 330 per kg from Rs 210 per kg the previous year. "If we raise the price of our products in this ratio, we will lose the existing market also," said Kasturi.

Many industrial units have shut down and their owners have entered into businesses selling Ludhiana products.

Sale of seconds on the roads has also dented the local business.

"Tibetans and other people bring products that are fancier than ours from

black markets without paying taxes to the government and sell them here at

cheap rates," alleged K L Patil, president of The Karnataka Hosiery Sahakari Utpadaka Sangha Ltd, Shahapur, Belgaum.

"We have to pay 5 per cent VAT on our products," he added.

Unlike their counterparts in Punjab who have good support from their administration, the locals here lack any kind of government support.

Lack of training

Vijay Kunda of Vijay Knit Wear feared that the industry will lose its existing work force in a few years as they were unable to hike their salaries.

He blamed it on government apathy and said no training was being provided to the new generation workers.

Officials of the Department of Handloom and Textile have a different story to tell.

"We have to give job guarantee to unemployed youth but this industry is not in a situation to provide many opportunities," said an official who did not want to be named. "We have sent a proposal for fund sanction in the budget for training of the work force in the knitting industry," he claimed.

The official said the department sanctions some funds for training workers in spinning, weaving and other handicrafts work. "This time we are expecting a green signal for training in knitting," the official said.

Also, there is no insurance facility for workers in the hosiery industry and no scholarships for their children.

Since such facilities are available to labourers in the weaving industry, many have turned to acrylic yarn and manufacturing of Tshirts, track suits, women’s wear and school uniform.

Government apathy

The government categorised this industry as part of the textile industry but power supply for knitting machines were subsidised for a long time whereas powerloom weavers get subsided power from the Hubli Electricity Supply Company.

The Department of Handloom and Textile is now providing subsidy to set up powerlooms at knitting units.

"Subsidy of 15 per cent will be given to all and 5 per cent additional subsidy is limited to minorities, women and SC, ST people under Suvarna Vastra Policy," said Zareppa Molkeri, joint director of the department.

Dwindling customers’ list

The state’s officials have shown little interest in the sector that had the army, police and the Department of Fire Fighters and Emergency Services as customers.

All their sportswear came from Belgaum’s hosiery industry but now these departments have also diverted their orders to Tirupur causing a major setback to the local industry.

Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily, who is from the state, had shown interest in selling products of the local hosiery units at Janata Bazars but it worked for only a couple of years.

Later, the government stopped selling them at Janata Bazars saying they were not handmade products.

The last bastion

Perhaps what is still keeping this industry alive in Belgaum is the fact that many private schools of Karnataka and Maharashtra still prefer sweaters from Belgaum because of their quality when compared with the stuff from Tirupur and Ludhiana.

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