exports: Labour-intensive exports lost market share in 2015-19: FIEO

India’s labour-intensive exports such as leather, garments, gems & jewellery and carpets lost market share globally in the calendar years 2015-19 even as exports of raw material and semi-finished products like metals and chemicals exceeded global imports growth in the five-year period, a study done by the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) showed.

Global gems and jewellery imports rose 5% in 2015-19 but India’s exports contracted 2% while woven garments imports grew 3% though India’s exports shrank 3% during the period.

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As per the study, pharmaceuticals and marine are the sunrise sectors where exports have done “exceptionally well but their potential has not yet been unfolded” while medical and surgical equipment, electrics and electronics, dairy, and sports goods and toys have “performed exceedingly well”.

“Most of these sectors such as medical devices, pharmaceuticals and electronics are getting a push through the production-linked incentive scheme but there is a challenge of capacity in a few sectors that needs to be addressed,” said Ajay Sahai, director general, FIEO.

The study comes at a time when India aims to clock $400 billion of merchandise exports in FY22. India’s goods exports in FY21 contracted 7.3% on-year to $290.6 billion.

Raising the issue of buoyancy in exports on account of exports of raw material or semi-finished goods, the study showed that the growth in exports of raw material and semi-finished products outstripped global imports growth in 2015-19.

Global unwrought aluminium imports surged at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5% during 2015-19 whereas India’s exports rose 31%. Similarly, ferro alloys global imports rose 10% while India’s exports clocked a CAGR of 15% during the same period. Iron and steel, plastic polymers and unwrought lead have exhibited a similar pattern.

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“Many of the exporters have pointed out that exports of these materials have pushed the domestic prices while, at the same time, helping our competitors in their exports,” FIEO said.

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The apex body of exporters sought the supply of such material to value-added manufacturing companies and encouragement to the resultant products manufacturers to set up manufacturing base so as to start exporting value-added products.

FIEO said certain sectors, which are covered under the PLI scheme, could witness capacity expansion and some of them can be classified as “winner sectors” and their sheer market size offers a potential for a quick rise in exports.

Global pharma imports rose at a 7% CAGR during 2015-19, while India’s exports grew 6%. However, India’s export share in global pharma imports is less than 3%, according to the study.

“If we want to be the ‘Pharmacy of the World’, we should look at increasing our share to 10% in the medium to long term,” it said.

Another high potential sector is marine wherein India’s exports grew 8% while global imports rose 7%.

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