A street vendor arranging ready made clothes for sale at Chittur in Palakkad.
| Photo Credit: MUSTAFAH KK
The story so far: Quality Control Orders (QCO) have been issued for fibres — cotton, polyester and viscose — that constitute the basic raw materials for majority of the Indian textile and clothing industry. While the standards were available earlier too, these are now revised and made mandatory for a few, and yet to be finalised for others. International manufacturers of these fibres, who supply to India, are also mandated to get a certificate from the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), which is the certifying authority for the QCOs.
Why are fibres covered under QCOs?
The Indian textile and clothing industry consumes both indigenous and imported fibres and filaments. The imports are for different reasons — cost competitiveness, non-availability in the domestic market, or to meet a specified demand of the overseas buyer. The main aim of the QCO is to control import of sub-quality and cheaper items and to ensure that customers get quality products. The entire supply chain, from the textile manufacturers to exporters, has so far focused on quality standards prescribed by the buyers.
What challenges does the new mandate bring?
India imports annually 50,000 – 60,000 tonnes of viscose fibre and its variants such as Modal and Tencel LF from nearly 20 countries. In the case of polyester, almost 90,000 tonnes of polyester fibre and 1.25 lakh tonnes of POY (Polyester Partially Oriented Yarn) are imported annually.
The overseas fibre manufacturers sell not only to India but to other countries too. The supply of some fibres to India is in small quantities. Getting the certificate from the BIS involves a cost and and hence not all are interested in getting the certificate. The Indian textile manufacturers who are dependent on these suppliers for the raw material will have to either look at other suppliers or lose orders. For instance, a bed linen exporter in Tiruppur district imports polyester filament with functional properties from Turkey based on the demand of his European buyers. Though the imported filament constitutes just 6% of the product, the buyer has specified the source for the filament. Since the Turkey company is not interested in getting the BIS certificate, the exporter in Tiruppur has lost an order to Pakistan. Furthermore, BIS officials have to visit the manufacturing unit abroad before issuing the certificate and this process is yet to be completed for all suppliers who have applied for the BIS registration. There is no clarity on the fibres that were shipped before the certification and which will reach India in the coming days.
The textile buyers, be it domestic or international, have established a supply chain over the years and when there are constraints because of certification, the value chain is disrupted.
What is the way forward?
Be it viscose or polyester, some varieties of the fibre have special functional properties and separate HS (Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System) code when imported. But, these are bundled in the QCO and thus have uniform quality standards. The textile industry imports just small quantities of such fibres and restricting its availability will deny Indian consumers of niche products. The textile industry is of the view that import of speciality fibres that are used as blends with other fibres should be made available without restriction. Also, any overseas applicant for the BIS certificate should get it without delay after inspection. Several textile units use lower grade fibres that are generated from rejects and wastes and these are not covered under the QCO. There is also a fear of costs going up for basic garments. Further, polyester spun yarn mills in the MSME sector need capital support to set up labs to test products. The QCO should be implemented only after the ambiguities are cleared and the anomalies set right, says the industry.
The BIS standards are mandatory for viscose staple fibre from March 29 and for five polyester products, including polyester staple fibre and polyester spun yarn from April 3.