Textile production on Friday came to a halt in several parts of this region, covering Coimbatore, Erode, Tirupur, Namakkal and Salem districts, with garment and weaving units going on a one-day strike demanding ban on cotton yarn exports.

At Tirupur, a large number of entrepreneurs and textile workers observed a fast.

According to president of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations A. Sakthivel, production loss in the country owing to the shutdown was estimated at Rs.175 crore, with the loss in Tirupur cluster alone amounting to Rs.45 crore. Unless the Central government came out with measures to stop yarn exports, yarn prices would not come down in the domestic market. Textile associations would intensify the agitation if the yarn prices did not come down even after Friday's strike, he warned.

Police sources said that around 80 per cent of the nearly 6,000 textile units at Tirupur stopped production on Friday.

Tirupur Member of Parliament C. Sivasami said the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MPs had written to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, seeking a discussion on the floor of the House on the steps that should be taken for controlling yarn prices.

“I am even ready to sacrifice the MP post, with the permission of AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa, if the Centre thinks such issues in Tirupur need to be solved only at the time of elections,” he said.

Hundreds of power loom and garment units and a large number of wholesale and retail textile shops in Erode remained closed. Manufacturing activity in the weaving and garment units in Erode and Namakkal districts came to a standstill.

M.S. Mathivanan, president of the Confederation of Indian Powerloom Industries, said prices of cotton yarn had doubled in the last few months, hitting the yarn-using industry hard.

“There is a huge shortage of cotton yarn in the domestic market due to uncontrolled exports,” he claimed. Mr. Mathivanan said the yarn-using industries would go on indefinite closure if the Central Government failed to take steps to bring down the yarn prices.

In Salem and Namakkal districts, nearly 60 per cent of powerlooms in the weaving clusters did not function. About 75,000 units in Komarapalayam, Pallipalayam and Tiruchengode in Namakkal district joined the strike.

A majority of the powerloom units at Ilampillai, Edapadi, Jalakandapuram and Salem also joined the strike. Nearly 6,500 of the 10,000 units in Edapadi block stopped their work, resulting in a loss of about Rs.2 crore.

A weaver at Edapadi, known for its towel manufacturing units, said that the local industry was on strike for the past one week against the price hike, incurring heavy losses.

Chairman of the Southern India Mills' Association J. Thulasidharan contended that yarn prices shot up during the last few months because of the hike in cotton prices. Even now, Indian cotton yarn costs less than Chinese or Bangladesh yarn.

Till 2007, the Indian textile industry was getting domestic cotton at a rate that was 15 to 20 per cent cheaper than that of international cotton. However, the mills are now paying international prices for Indian cotton. “In such a scenario, yarn should also get international prices.” Mr. Thulasidharan countered the demand for ban on exports, saying there was surplus availability of yarn in all counts. Ban on exports was needed only when there was a shortage. The Cotton Yarn Advisory Board monitored yarn availability. “The government should come out with a comprehensive policy for raw materials.” Cotton prices were expected to decline after December 15 and this would reflect on the yarn prices too.

A State government official says the State has been vigorously pursuing with the Centre the issue of safeguarding interests of the local textile industry. It is because of its efforts that the cotton exports have been pegged at 55 lakh bales this year compared to 83 lakh bales last year. Also, no exports were allowed between May and October this year.

(With inputs from R. Ilangovan in Salem, M. Soundariya Preetha in Coimbatore, R. Vimal Kumar in Tirupur and S. Ramesh in Erode)