Govt considers making technical textiles must for ministries to boost jobs

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With an eye on boosting domestic production and job creation, the government will soon make the use of technical textiles mandatory for ministries and public agencies, according to sources.

As many as 92 categories of technical textiles, including fire-resistant curtains, geogrid for railways, bulletproof jackets, leno bags for transporting agri commodities, and architectural membranes for tents, have been identified for mandatory use, say senior government sources.

Seven ministries that undertake major infrastructure and public works will lead the initiative. These are the railways, road transport, Jal Shakti, agriculture, urban development, health, and defence.
The Cabinet is also slated to discuss the matter soon and notify the rules for this.

Technical textiles are functional fabrics used in multiple industries such as automobile, construction, and agriculture.

Manufactured for non-aesthetic purposes, the sector has been on the government’s policy radar for 10 years for its high growth potential and capacity for job creation, and is divided into 12 industries.

Among these, medical textiles such as implants, geotextiles used in the reinforcement of river embankments and rocky cliff sides, and agro textiles for crop protection have been earmarked by the government as major growth creators, an official said.

The textiles ministry has run pilot projects to assess the viability of these products. A project of Rs 427 crore to include geotextiles in constructing mountainous road networks in the Northeast has been successful, the official added. Maintenance is easy for the roads, which are expected to have a longer operational life and suited to the seismic nature of the area, according to official findings.


Rescuing textile exports

Streamlining the export of technical textiles is also on the cards. In January, the government notified the Harmonized System of Nomenclature (HSN) codes for 207 technical textile products.

HSN codes classify commercially traded goods globally and facilitate international trade. In the absence of a clear classification, technical textile manufacturers complain of not getting incentives being allowed to the sector by the Centre and state governments.

Now, the textiles ministry has requested the Directorate General of Foreign Trade to approve 40 more products, the export of which may then be categorised, planned, and boosted.

As a result, the government has finalised standardising 348 types of technical textiles, with a further 159 under development by the Bureau of Indian Standards.

The government is betting heavily on the sector at a time when apparel exports — a traditionally strong forex earner for India — have remained depressed.

India’s $16-billion basket of readymade garments saw a 3 per cent decline in 2018-19 and has raked in $6.8 billion in the first five months of the current fiscal year. In contrast, exports of the 348 products already standardised in the January-June period of 2019 saw exports increasing by 17 per cent, while the negative trade balance reduced by 52 per cent, a senior official said.

Apart from planning workshops for exporters, the government will roll out six courses on technical textiles soon.

Manufacturing boost

The upcoming policy will keep cost escalation to a minimum because domestic companies have a significant presence in the production of almost all kinds of technical textiles. Products have been gaining ground in India due to functional requirements, safety, durability, versatility, customisation, and eco-friendliness, according to the Indian Technical Textile Association.

India has a modest 4 per cent share in the global technical textiles market, but has seen a healthy annual growth rate of 12 per cent over the past few years.

The last baseline survey of the sector carried out by the ministry showed its domestic market size to be more than Rs 1.16 trillion in 2017-18. Now, the textile commissioner’s office has estimated a market size of Rs 2 trillion by 2020-21.

The results of a new baseline survey, being done by Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, will be released by November, sources said.

According to government estimates, there are about 2,100 units in the country manufacturing these products. They are mostly in Gujarat, followed by Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

The sector constitutes 12-15 per cent of the textile value chain in India.

The global growth rate for technical textiles outmatches that for apparel or home textiles.

According to UK-based Allied Market Research, the global technical textile market was valued at $234 billion in 2017, and is projected to reach $334 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 4.5 per cent from 2018 to 2025.

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