Modernisation of sector high priority of Government: Union Minister

The rapid development and modernisation of the leather sector holds the key to India's bid to be a global leader in the leather industry, S.S.Palanimanickam, Union Minister of State for Finance, said on Tuesday.

Launching the 27 edition of the India International Leather Fair here, he flagged the modernisation and growth of the leather sector as an area of high priority for the Government and said a series of policy initiatives aimed at scaling up the sector's contribution to the national economy were under way.

These measures sought to generate an appropriate climate in the leather sector. He hoped that the industry would reciprocate in full measure and step up its exports to realise the national vision.

Noting that India's exports of leather products such as finished leather, footwear and leather garments were in the region of $ 3.84 billion annually, the Minister said the sector also had substantial potential for employment generation with nearly four million workers currently engaged in leather production units across the country.

He later presented awards of export excellence in various categories.

M. Rafeeque Ahmed, chairman, Council for Leather Exports, said the last two to three decades had been a period of significant growth for the Indian leather industry, which had transformed its image from “mere supplier of raw materials” to a “global player” capable of delivering value-added leather products and footwear. The re-emergence of the crisis situation in Europe was a cause for concern as the region accounted for 66 per cent of Indian exports. He urged the government to consider the industry's demands, including implementation of two per cent interest subvention on the rupee export credit for the entire leather sector and enhancement of duty free limit from three per cent to five per cent.

Rita Menon, chairperson, Indian Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO), said the Chennai event had acquired an iconic status and this year's edition not only mirrored advances, new trends, and innovations in footwear and leather goods, but also provided a window to the status of the world market and changing demands.

Neeraj Kumar Gupta, ITPO Executive director, participated.

The premier B2B leather event has drawn over 425 exhibitors, including 139 overseas companies from 23 countries. Mild furore preceded the launch of the event when a group of about 25 protesters raised slogans against the hoisting of the Sri Lankan flag at the venue. They were removed from the scene by the police.