Road beyond spinning yarn
Guwahati, Oct. 13: The Northeast imports 86 per cent of its garments and dress materials despite being a region known well for its traditional weaving industry.
This revelation, made during the third expert consultative committee meeting for the growth and development of textiles in Northeast region in Shillong last month, hits home the point that the region still has a long way to go when it comes to the textile industry.
The Indian Jute Industries and Research Association has even constituted the committee for the growth and development of textile and clothing industry in north eastern region this with an eye on developing the textile sector in the region. The committee, which is attached to the textile commissioner’s office under the ministry of textiles, will act as a platform for effective coordination of resources and efforts of various programmes and schemes of the ministry.
Talking to The Telegraph, the officer-in-charge of the Guwahati-based North Eastern Regional Centre and Powerloom Service Centre of the Indian Jute Industries and Research Association, Basanta Singh, said, “There is a huge gap in the demand and supply in the textile and clothing sector in the region. The gap is a whopping 86 per cent.”
Statistics reveal that the requirement of textiles, from both powerloom and handloom sectors, in the region is 1,368 million metres per annum but the annual production is just 196 million metres, resulting in an annual supply gap of 1,172 million metres. The annual textile consumption per household is 30 metres per person.
The 2010 handloom census carried out by National Council of Applied Economic Research revealed that the Northeast states were the only ones that qualified for the “only weaver states” tag, because in these states, 94.3 per cent of adult workers were weavers and only 5.7 per cent exclusively working as allied workers.
But paradoxically, only 4.2 per cent of looms in Northeast are fully commercial.
In states outside the Northeast, 81.5 per cent of the looms are used for commercial production and another 13.7 per cent for mixed production. “However, it is a potential resource if the government is able to create an enabling environment for commercial production,” the census report said.
But the actual situation is indeed bad in Assam, where, apart from the Assam Polyester Co-operative Society Limited (APOL), all other mills have been closed because of various reasons, including mismanagement. Even APOL is operating with liabilities to the tune of Rs 23 crore.
“It is very difficult to have a viable textile industry in the Northeast. To be viable, one must produce 20,000 metres of cloth daily,” Assam Polyester Co-operative Society Limited managing director S. Mazumdar said.
He said it was also difficult to export textiles to main markets of the country, as the transportation costs were too high at Rs 6-8 per metre.
Singh, however, said, “It would not be wrong to say that there are huge opportunities available in this region. The weaving workforce is skilled and the traditional designs are in huge demand. What is needed is for it to be promoted as a niche product.”
He said there was a need for installing standard finishing processes to add value to the textiles produced in the region. The look, quality and feel of the fabric needed improvement, he said, adding that this could be done only by installing the right equipment and training the region’s manpower to use them.