After a ``tiny’’ recovery of 1.9 per cent in August, garment exports from India is back in the negative territory, according to figures released by the Apparel Export Promotion Council here on Tuesday for September.

As per the figures, India was able to export garments worth US dollars 652 million only in September, against 702 million dollars in the same month last year, making it a decline of 7.52 per cent .

With this, garment exports from India in the first half of the current fiscal has fallen 7.3 per cent as compared to the figures for the same period last year. In absolute terms, exports between April and September this year has come to only US dollars 4.84 billion. The performance for the same period last year was US dollars 5.22 billion.

The opening month of the current fiscal had recorded garment exports worth US dollars 800 million (against US dollars 885 million in April 2008), and this dipped to US dollars 763 million in May (compared to US dollars 863 million last year).

The negative trend continued in June, when the country exported apparel worth US dollars 870 million (against US dollars 968 million) and in July US dollars 874 million (against US dollars 936 million).

Painting a gloomy picture for the industry, AEPC Chairman, Rakesh Vaid, said, ``despite some recent rosy reports , many economists say the recovery will be painfully slow’’.

He also noted that Government’s efforts to penetrate new markets of Latin America, the Middle East and the Oceanic countries will take a long time to yield results.

He reiterated the AEPC’s demand for hike in the duty drawback rates for cotton garment exports to 13.25 per cent from the present rates of between eight and 10 per cent and a corresponding increase for blended and manmade fibre garments.

Complaining that due to the ``cost disability factor’’, Indian exports are fast becoming uncompetitive, he noted that while China has been able to offer much better prices for its products in the global market since it has increased its drawback refunds in the past one year from 11 to 17 per cent, competition was ``equally bruising’’ from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia.

``In the US dollars 373 billion global clothing industry, India’s share has fallen to 2.6 per cent from 3.3 per cent until a few years ago. To [even] retain the current share of 2.6 per cent, the country needs to export 18 billion dollars worth of clothes annually, which requires 2.7 million additional manpower and investments of US dollars 30 billion’’.

In 2008-09, Indian apparel exports had totalled US dollars 10.17 billion, up from US dollars 9.68 billion in the previous year.

For the current year, Mr Vaid said that it may not cross even US dollars nine billion, unless there was a dramatic recovery in the coming months.

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