Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: The Centre should accord special status to granite and other natural stones industry and set up common facility centres on the lines of the textile sector, said R. Veeramani, chairman, Granite Natural Stones and Products panel, Capexil on Tuesday.

Addressing granite member exporters of Capexil at an interactive session, he said: “In a real sense, it is a rural-based, product-based, labour-intensive industry and exports products under an Indian brand name. It has world-class manufacturing facilities compared to its counterparts worldwide. Yet, it is treated like an orphan,” he said.

“In the last 40 years, this industry has taken strong roots in India and we thought it would be easier to export products worth $1 billion by 2000. But it was achieved only in 2007 because of lack of support from the Centre. During this intervening period, China has emerged stronger. Till recently, we exported products worth $1.4 billion and we are aiming for $5 billion within the next five to seven years to take on China, for which we have sought the special status for this sector,” he said. Elaborating on the common facility centre, he said it should be set up for the benefit of small processors and merchant exporters.

“The State governments should ensure availability of quality raw material for processing to small factories on a first-come, first-served basis. Today, any Chinese company can get quality rough blocks from leading mines, but it is not so in the case of small-time exporters. Lack of policy has forced many a corporate firm to move out of this sector. We are not against government or government-run units, we want quality raw material,” he said.

Mr. Veeramani urged the Centre to allow import of rough blocks of granite under OGL and at a duty less than the finished slabs. He suggested starting training centres in Hosur, Chennai, Salem, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Udaipur and Warangal.