Step up apparel exports target to $20 billion: Textiles Minister K Sambasiva Rao

NEW DELHI: Assuring full support to the industry, Textiles Minister K Sambasiva Raoon Monday asked apparel exporters to step up their overseas sales target to $ 20 billion in 2013-14. 

Rao's goal is 55 per cent higher than last year's textile exports. The 
Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) recently raised its export target for 2013-14 to $ 17.5 billion. 

"Apparel exporters have told me they can increase their exports from about $ 14 billion to $ 17.5 billion in the current fiscal," he said after inaugurating the India International Garment Fair, in which over 350 exhibitors are participating. 

Rao said he had higher goals for apparel exports. "You assure me that you are going to increase the exports -- not from $ 14 billion to $ 17.5 billion this year, but to $ 20 billion," he said. "Whatever funds will be required, I will talk to Prime Minister 
Manmohan Singh for the same." 

India's 
apparel exports declined by over 5 per cent to $ 12.9 billion in 2012-13 due to sluggish demand in western markets. The US and Europe, which together account for over 65 per cent of the country's apparel exports, have been facing weak economic growth. 

To project their capabilities in existing markets and to explore new markets, exporters want government support, including customs duty reduction on synthetic fabrics, adequate availability of credit at affordable rates and additional resources under the Market Development Assistance (MDA) and Market Assistance Initiative (MAI) schemes. 

The MDA Scheme offers 
funding to exporters to take part in global fairs and send trade delegations to help develop overseas markets, while the MAI Scheme provides funds to undertake market surveys and open showrooms and warehouses. 

The minister said steps would be taken to resolve issues faced by the exporters such as rigid labour laws, high customs duty and shortage of skilled labour. 

"Some of the issues raised by members are issues related to labour policies. The industry is seasonal so everybody has to work round the clock during a particular time of the year. I was given to understand that the workers are also willing to work overtime," he said. 

Rao said as China shifts from labour-intensive industries to capital-intensive sectors, "We will have more opportunities and we must catch this opportunity and not lose it." 

At a high-level committee meeting on manufacturing chaired by the Prime Minister last week, a road-map of measures was laid out to increase textile exports by 30 per cent in the current fiscal year, amid a declining rupee.