India holds a measly 4% market share in the textile industry globally. However, it is critical in providing employment and livelihood in the country as the second largest employing sector, with over 45 million directly employed, including 35.22 lakh handloom workers. Within the textile sector, India’s man-made fibre market is slowly but steadily becoming an emerging sub-section.
Man-made fibres are fast becoming a favourite choice amongst many weavers and spinners in India. They contribute to around 100% of non-cotton fabrics and blended fabrics. In FY 2020, the overall demand for man-made fibres and yarns stood at approximately ~6,066 ktpa.
With the rise in demand for technical and medical textiles, India has seen a surge in demand for man-made fibres. Additionally, with the increase in the price of raw materials, such as cotton, many weavers and spinners have started blending man-made fibres to stay cost competitive.
Production of fibres like cotton is also heavily dependant on factors like weather conditions and crop yields. As a result, fibres like viscose and polyester provide an alternative to weavers and spinners in lull periods.
In 2022 when the Indian textiles industry was faced with a severe shortage of Cotton and prices became unaffordable, the user industry used Viscose to maintain their production and sustain the livelihoods of workers.
Viscose and Polyester are also flexible and durable, hence able to endure high-speed machinery. Moreover, these fibres also have multiple uses due to properties such as being hydrophobic. Therefore, it is only fitting to say that man-made fibre is becoming a critical pillar of India’s textile industry.
However, this is not to say that man-made fibre is here to replace natural fibre, as many often note that the future of textile stands in the blend of nature with man-made, providing the best of both worlds.
Man-made fibres have become the fuel of India’s textile industry, enabling Indian weavers and spinners to stay competitive in a price-conscious market.
The government has put crucial measures in place for the sector to thrive, including the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for Man-made Textiles, the National Technical Textile Mission, the Remission of Duties and Taxes on Exported Products (RoDTEP) Scheme.
However, there are various issues plaguing the value chain. Viscose fibre, despite being integral to India’s man-made fibre sector, is limited in supply in the country.
India also holds one of the largest installed production bases in the world in the weaving industry, but using old technology combined with a limited supply of raw materials, the sector’s true potential is hindered due to low output and quality. These hindrances and obstacles in the value chain often spiral to impact the entire value chain of the man-made textile industry.
This means it is not just the productivity which is at stake but also the livelihood of countless Indian weavers and spinners who are the backbone of the sector. Therefore, to ensure that the textile value chain is sustainable and safeguarded, the first step is to ensure the availability of quality raw materials at competitive prices.
To enable this, we need healthy and fair competition in the market and a level playing field. This level playing field will exist only when the supply and demand mechanisms for the raw materials stand at equilibrium. Years of protectionism have skewed the control over raw materials, with some getting an undue advantage.
Recent reports indicate that a reintroduction of duties on viscose is being contemplated because of pressure from the domestic manufacturer. The proposed duty is likely to increase the import price of the fibre by up to INR 40.
High raw material costs would lead to increased imports of yarn and fabric, leading to a loss of jobs in the country. In addition, our exports would suffer.
Man-made fibres: future of textile in India and Globally
With cheaper costing and multiple uses, man-made fibres are a good addition to the textile industry. However, as mentioned above, they are not here to replace nature fibres such as cotton and silk but to complement them with newer alternatives such as blended fibres.
Hence, it is high time we bring our much-needed attention to man-made fibres to create an ecosystem that safeguards the value chain and the livelihood of millions of weavers and spinners dependant on the fibre’s production.
This is the right time for India to benefit from the world’s shift away from China by providing a stable policy and competitive raw materials available to the value chain. Inconsistent policy decisions on raw materials will only ruin the chance of participation for the small-scale spinning and weaving industries in man-made fibre fabric production.
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