India’s export sector is pleading for government support to help it tide over the COVID-19 impact. Exports from the country fell by 8 per cent in the first three weeks of this month.
And the worse may be yet to come.
While lauding the Rs 1.7 lakh crore COVID-19 package for the poor announced by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday afternoon, President of Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) Sharad Kumar Saraf said they too were expecting a similar support package. “Exporters are one of the worst victims of COVID-19, inundated with cancellation and postponement of orders amidst (the) most challenging global scenario,” he said.
Simultaneously, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) put forth a 10-point action plan to boost the sector. The suggestions included easing lockdown restrictions to allow shipments transportation from factory or warehouse to the customs facility, deferment for filing bill of entry and payment of customs duty, government desisting from encashing any bank guarantees over defaults for the time-being and relaxation of fines over delay in procedures—the delay being expected during these unusual circumstances. The industry body also called for banks to give priority to exporters and grant easy credit; airports and seaports to be earmarked, where exports would be handled with priority.
It also called for the continuation of all benefits under the present Foreign Trade Policy at least till June 30th.
For India’s export sector, it has been a ‘defeat from the jaws of victory’ kind of a scenario this past couple of months. Buffeted by the economic slowdown and global trade cues, India’s export industry was on a downward spiral in recent times. After seven months of decline, India’s exports showed growth for the first time in February, at nearly 3 per cent. However, just when it seemed that things had finally improved, the coronavirus pandemic struck, with the graph plummeting again in March.
“The short-term impact on exports has (already) started showing up with exporters facing liquidity crunch as customers payments are not coming through and shipments of ready goods are not able to leave the factory or lying at the port because of lockdown situation globally,” pointed out CII director general Chandrajit Banerjee.