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MARKET WATCH 16 APRIL, 2020

NATIONAL

INTERNATIONAL

Exporters hope for interest subvention scheme to help MSMEs counter coronavirus crisis

Indian exporters are looking to the government to provide some financial support to counter the COVID-19 impact on the global economy. Export associations believe the government should provide interest subvention schemes in lending export-oriented MSMEs. MSMEs form a part of nearly 65 percent of the value of exports in India. Several sectors such as textile, jewellery, handicrafts and gems have been severely impacted due to the ongoing crisis, experiencing nearly 50 percent fall in orders. "An interest subvention scheme will reduce the cost of funding. It will directly benefit exporters and help them resume operations once the lockdown is lifted," said Sharad Kumar Saraf, President, Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO). The government has an interest equalisation scheme in place. This scheme has been designed to aid manufacturing and merchant exporters with an interest subsidy of 3 percent on pre-and-post-shipment rupee credit for exports of 416 products (tariff lines). To boost MSME sector exports, the Reserve Bank of India in November hiked the interest subsidy on the post- and pre-shipment export credit to 5 percent from 3 percent. Exporters are estimated to have received Rs 2,868 crore under the equalisation scheme in FY20. However, according to an industry expert, recovery becomes difficult in certain cases due to lack of collateral with MSMEs. The government provides reimbursement in case of bad loans and full cover is not available in most categories. Usually, the cover ranges from 65-75 percent of the loan, thus the balance turns into losses for banks. The commerce ministry on March 31 announced an extension of the foreign trade policy for 2015-20 by a year until March 2021. "Since there is complete lockdown from 24th March and no export is taking place, several orders of the exporters have been rejected. A large quantity of material to be exported is idle lying with exporters. Many commitments of delivery have been failed," said Praveen Khandelwal, National Secretary General of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT). The lockdown has brought domestic production is at standstill due to closure of units. Most exporters procure goods from these units. This is further expected to dampen business, as they fear that orders in hand would have to be revalidated. And because the whole world is dealing with the crisis, there is no surety on which orders would be revalidated, if at all. "If India government allows exports but much would depend upon the conditions of the country where the goods would be exported. As of now nobody knows how global economy would behave post Covid . Therefore, exporters are confused," Khandelwal added. The sector also contributes about 25 percent to the country's gross domestic product from service activities and over 33 percent to the manufacturing output of India. Some trade experts believe that there is an immediate need for some kind of an incentive package for exporters. "It has to be remembered that to begin production, they'll need labour, most of whom are migrants and have gone back. Without financial assistance, things look bleak," a trade expert said on condition of anonymity. Industry body Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has asked the government to release dues to MSMEs immediately. It has also requested enhanced working capital, moratorium extension along with wage support. The apex body has further asked the government to provide additional funding through Mudra Bank and other MSME-focussed banks.

Source: Money Control

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The manufacturers in the textile hub of Tirupur say that India has the capacity to produce the required PPEs

The Centre's decision to purchase 15 million Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) kits (including gowns, masks, gloves and goggles) from China to meet the country's Covid-19 requirements comes at a time when the Indian textile firms has the capacity to produce the equipment within the country, feel textile manufacturers. The manufacturers in the textile hub of Tirupur say that India has the capacity to produce the required PPEs and it would have been better if the government had supported the industry to manufacture them instead of relying on China for the same. Domestic manufacturers have the potential to manufacture 4,000 PPE kits and over 100,000 masks every day at competitive prices, with a local manufacturing company in Tirupur offering a full suit and mask for Rs 198. In Tirupur alone there are around 100 companies that have started manufacturing masks. Raja M Shanmugham, President, Tirupur Exporters Association said that instead of sourcing from China, all the PPE kits can be sourced from industrial clusters like Tirupur, which manufactures around Rs 50,000 crore worth of knitwear every year for export and domestic markets. He noted while nearly 100 units were producing masks at present, with government support, PPEs could be manufactured at the garment factories in Tirupur. All these manufacturers needed in the form of government support included standard operating procedure, know-how, education and supply of fabric, said Shanmugham. The move would also help the garment factories, which are sitting idle due to the lockdown across the country and in various global markets, he noted. "These can be manufactured faster in centres like Tirppur. Why is the government neglecting this bigger opportunity," questioned Shanmugham. Concerns have been raised about the availability of PPEs with the number of Covid-19 cases rising in the country going up in the last few weeks. While the government has decided to procure PPEs for government hospitals, the private sector is finding it difficult to procure these kits, which cost around Rs 800-1000 per piece. The doctors and nurses dealing directly with the Covid-19 patients need to change kits often in a day. Moreover, the lab technicians who carry out tests also require PPEs, nearly one per sample, according to industry sources.

Source: Business Standard

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Electronic documents for clearing imports allowed: CBIC

In a move that will help movement of essential goods and commodities through customs, the government has allowed importers and customs brokers to give electronic out of charge copies of bill of entry and eGatepass from April 15. The latest reform towards paperless customs will help tide over difficulties during the Covid 19 pandemic spread by reducing interface or contact with authorities, the government said, and will enable easier movement of goods to move out of customs areas after checks, besides reducing costs. "The Board notes that the specific measures that reduce interface between the customs authorities and the importers/exporters/Customs Brokers are especially relevant in these challenging times, to tackle the scourge of Covid-19 pandemic,” the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs said in a circular dated April 13.The electronic passes will replace physically signed documents. Customs will do away with the requirement of taking bulky printouts from the service centre, and maintenance of voluminous physical dockets in the customs houses. In order to mitigate the unprecedented situation due to Covid-19 pandemic, CBIC has taken several measures to facilitate and expedite customs clearance, including making procedures automated, online and paper-less, clearing goods on basis of undertaking and acceptance of electronic country of origin certificates. Once granted, the final electronic out of charge or eOoC copy of bill of entry and eGatepass copy will be emailed to the concerned customs broker or importers. The eGatepass copy will be used by the gate officer or the custodian to allow physical exit of the imported goods from the customs area. DG Systems will enable an online system which will generate the PDF versions of eOoC copy that will bear a digitally signed and encrypted QR code – which will carry details of the package – which can be scanned to verify the authenticity of the document using Mobile App ICETRAK.  An eGatepass generated electronically and sent to importers or customs brokers, will contain details of the consignment, but two types of QR codes. One, for the entire eGatepass document and another for each container or package covered under the Gatepass. CBIC will instruct field formations to ensure registration of all custodians in ICEGATE as per the advisory of DG Systems, so that the potential benefits of the new measures could be reaped across the entire customs ecosystem. Further, trade and industry will be made aware of the changes through notices or standing orders.

Source:  Economic Times

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Impact of COVID-19 on the Indian apparel & textile industry

Indian Textiles and Apparels industry accounts for approximately 4 percent of the global textile and apparel market. The textile and apparel industry is one of the largest and the most important sectors for the Indian economy in terms of output, foreign exchange earnings and employment. The industry contributes approximately 7 percent to industrial output in value terms, 2 percent to the GDP and 15 percent to the country’s export earnings. The Indian economy has been hit hard by COVID-19. Due to the countrywide lockdown various transport facilities including trains and flights are suspended which is expected to hurt domestic operations in India.  With the virus now also affecting and disrupting global supply chains and economy for almost 3 to 6 months now, the situation is having a severe implication on the Indian economy as well.

The areas that would face the crisis created by COVID-19 pandemic are:

Labour force and employment: Textile and apparel provides direct employment to over 45 million people but the nationwide lockdown have led to a temporary closure of factories and lay-offs have already begun among low wage worker.

Import & Exports of raw material and readymade garment:

The COVID-19 pandemic is primarily expected to adversely impact exports and with second-order impact on the domestic markets with both exports as well as domestic sales falling. The pandemic has affected the majority of India’s export market (the US and EU together constitute for approximately, 60 percent of the total apparel exports from India in value terms), causing order cancellations/deferral of order leading to inventory build-up and expectation of slower realization of export receivables leading to higher working capital requirements. Apparel exports are expected to fall due to drying up of order in the last quarter of FY20, working capital issues and lack of clarity on the duties and incentives especially when exporters from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Vietnam receive preferential access. Additionally, domestic consumption is also getting impacted due to all India closure. New store openings have stopped and even domestic stores are facing an inventory build-up due to apparel sources for the upcoming summer season, Further, domestic prices could be negatively impacted if exporters dump their inventories in the domestic market leading to even reduced margins. This could lead to short term blips such as reduced employment of casual labour (factory closures and people moving back to their home towns) and reduced consumption.

Cash flow constraints: The sector has been grappling with profitability issue due to a sharp decline in yarn exports, cheaper imports etc. these issues only look to get aggravated further with the current crisis.

Supply chain disruption: The garment manufacturers need to look at local sourcing opportunities, due impact on import and export.

Consumer sentiment: If nationwide lockdown continues and the situation persists, will impact consumer sentiment on the higher side, due to closure of market and mall also to maintaining the social distancing, safety and health.

The extent of the outbreak and lockdown would directly impact the length of the recovery cycle. However, to minimize the impact the Confederation of Indian Textile Industry (CITI) has requested the government to immediately announce a relief package for the textile and apparel sector to mitigate the crisis being faced by the capital and labour-intensive textile Industry, post the coronavirus spread.

Source: India Retailing

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Centre’s full wage order may push industry into bankruptcy: Amarinder

Coronavirus (COVID-19): In a letter to Modi, Amarinder urged the Centre to look for innovative solutions to protect the interests of workers without causing irreparable damage to industry and commercial establishments. Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Tuesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reconsider directives to industry and commercial establishments to pay full wages to their workers during the lockdown period, saying it may push them into bankruptcy. In a letter to Modi, Amarinder urged the Centre to look for innovative solutions to protect the interests of workers without causing irreparable damage to industry and commercial establishments. In an order issued on March 29 under The Disaster Management Act, the Union Home Ministry had said, “…all the employers, be it in the industry or in the shops and commercial establishments, shall make payment of wages to their workers, at their workplace, on the due date, without any deduction, for the period their establishments are under closure during the lockdown.” Amarinder said that this “part of the order” needs reconsideration as “this will have huge financial implications for industry as well as shops and commercial establishments in the state and may push them to bankruptcy as the income of most of these units has completely stopped due to lockdown”. Amarinder termed as imperative the re-examination of the matter by the Centre. He said the Centre should explore some innovative solutions “whereby the interests of the workers can be protected without impairing the financial health of commercial and industrial units beyond repair”. Pointing out that the Punjab government had written separately to the Union Labour Ministry on the issue, he also urged Modi to advise the ministry to take early action in this regard.

Source: Indian Express

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ASSOCHAM hails PM Modi for extending lockdown, seeks urgent financial help for industry

ASSOCHAM today fully supported Prime Minister Narendra Modi for extending the nationwide lockdown till May 3 for saving each and every Indian from the unprecedented global pandemic, with a firm conviction that the government would soon be announcing a large and effective financial package for protecting agriculture, industry , trade with a particular focus on the MSMEs and millions of jobs, said ASSOCHAM secretary general Mr. Deepak Sood. ''Prime Minister's decision to consolidate gains from the earlier 3-week lockdown is a wise move, even though it has economic costs , as Shri Modi has talked about in his address to the nation. His call to the people and the state and local authorities to strictly enforce the lockdown till April 20 for qualifying to get relaxation is a double-edged tool for effective results. His concern for the most vulnerable sections of the society and the agriculture is highly appreciated and would help revive the economy after Coronavirus is gone'', Mr. Sood said. He said, the ASSOCHAM has been in constant touch with the Centre, states and other institutions like the Reserve Bank of India, sharing the ground reports on the state of industry, trade and the broader economy. The situation is quite challenging, but somehow, the industry is managing to stay afloat and pay salaries and other essential disbursements in the supply chain. However, the situation may become unsustainable in the coming weeks, making it extremely important for the Government to announce an effective and sizeable package for the economy. ''There is a broad national consensus that the Government can go in for a wider fiscal deficit , even though the unconventional tool of monetising it by direct bond buying by the RBI. The subsistence funds are required both for the industry and trade as also their employees. Besides, the massive health infrastructure, so urgently needed to fight the health battle requires large resources. There is not much alternative but to spend our way through this crisis on keeping the economic lifeline alive and robust. The FRBM Act has a provision for such a window," said Mr. Sood. The ASSOCHAM has submitted several specific suggestions with regard to roll over of the bank loans across the board, further slashing the interest rates, immediate amendments in the IBC Act for putting it in abeyance for at least six months and changes in the RBI rules to allow banks for liberal lending without the fear of NPA slippages. Moratorium on EMIs and corporate debt repayments needs refinement at operational level. Besides, the RBI needs to keep a strict watch on currency movement in the foreign exchange market to guard against any volatility. "Large foreign exchange reserves in excess of USD 450 billion are a great source of comfort at this critical time''. The chamber has also worked out and shared with the government a plan for graded re-opening of the economy with the mantra of social distancing. "We hope that when guidelines for selective opening of the sectors and the areas are issued, our suggestions would find value in the same ". Mr Deepak Sood said, the Indian economy has an inherent strength that is enabling the uninterrupted supply chain of essentials. However, going forward, this supply chain may face challenges if quick and effective steps are not taken. These include smooth operation of truckers with adequate manpower, reaching out to farmers and their produce for perishable commodities. There are several industries which are part of the crucial supply chain, and the same must be kept in operation.

Source: Economic Times

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Covid-19 crisis: PM, FM to finalise details of second stimulus package soon

The stimulus package is expected anytime this week and will again be aimed at the urban and rural poor; disadvantaged sections of society; MSME sector; and some of the worst-affected sectors Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman are expected to meet soon to finalise the details of a second stimulus package to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the economy, Business Standard has learnt. The meeting is also likely to be attended by senior officials from the finance ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office. The stimulus package is expected anytime this week and will be aimed at the urban and rural poor; disadvantaged sections of society; micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs); and some of the worst-affected sectors. Late last month, Sitharaman had announced a Rs 1.7 trillion stimulus package, which included measures like free foodgrain and direct cash transfers for targeted beneficiaries, and an increase in wages under the employment guarantee programme.  A senior government official said this would not necessarily be the last Covid-related stimulus package. A call on further measures will be taken later, and could even be announced after the lifting of the lockdown. The measures that are being finalised could include easier access to credit for MSMEs, and further cash and food transfers, sources said. “There is a proposal for another hike in MGNREGA payments,” an official said. To create some rural jobs, officials said the construction of rural roads during the lockdown period, with the help of MGNREGA workers, was being considered. The resumption of economic activity from rural areas, they said, was the safest bet since Covid-19 hotspots were mostly centered in urban or semi-urban areas. The government has relaxed almost all agriculture activities from the purview of the lockdown and whatever is left will also be removed from the curbs in the next few days. A blanket approval of farming activities is on the cards to enable smooth harvesting of rabi crops. That apart, another senior official said the focus was now on preventing distress sale by farmers which would impact their incomes and, thereby, the overall rural sector. Hence, some steps regarding the food logistics and transportation system could also be announced. “Steps to incentivise farmers to store their produce for longer durations so that they don’t sell their produce in a hurry are being considered at the highest level,” a second official said. That apart, ways through direct purchases of fruits, vegetables and also cereals by big companies and retailers, without going through the mandi system, are being considered for which retailers might also be granted some concessions.

Source:  Business Standard

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Covid-19: India Inc seeks easing of lockdown norms for production

Corporate houses want the governments to divide districts into smaller zones to identify low-risk areas where factories can start work, peg production capacity to the risk of Covid-19 in a zone

With a substantial number of manufacturing units located in red and orange zones, India Inc expects that the central government will relax the rules in such zones and help them restart production. Red zones are districts where many Covid-19 cases have been detected — some of them have been declared hotspots — and no activity might be permitted there. Orange zones are those where there are fewer cases, but can be some activity. The central government is coming up with detail guidelines for opening up of manufacturing units. Corporate houses want the governments to divide districts into smaller zones to identify low-risk areas where factories can start work, peg production capacity to the risk of Covid-19 in a zone, allow factories that do not come under the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to operate in the orange zone, and broaden the definition of essential services. A top executive of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) said not a single unit was located in the green zone (where there are no Covid-19 cases) according to estimates. He said the situation would be similar for the component industry too. So, if these zones are kept under a tight leash with limited or no economic activity, they won't be able to open units. Said R C Bhargava, chairman of Maruti Suzuki: "I expect that the government will divide the affected districts into smaller sub-zones and permit industry in those smaller divisions, where there is little risk. A district is a very big zone. The process has to be in stages." Automakers said the government needs to open up some key industries like auto, textiles and electronics and their vendors in the initital phase of opening up and then add in more sectors. The SIAM executive said: "It's not only the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) whose factory has to be opened in the zone, even component suppliers have to start production and some dealers have to open their shutters as we have to also sell our product. So it is a complex process.” So far, around 48 per cent of 727 districts in the country have reported Covid-19 cases. CEOs say various models have been looked at during interactions with the government. Says a CEO of a well-known tyre company: "One of the things that is being looked at is whether the capacity permitted at a factory should be pegged to which zone it is located in. For instance, it could be 50 per cent capacity in the green zone and 25 per cent in orange zone but nothing for the red zone to begin with." Tyre companies are hoping that the manufacture of tyres for tractors is included under the ESMA and that as they have continuous processing plants they should be treated on a par with sectors like steel and refineries. In Tamil Nadu, for instance, 17 of the 34 zones are classified as red. These include Chennai and Coimbatore (engineering hub), Tiruppur (knitwear hub), Erode (textile), and Tiruchirappalli (engineering) amongst others. The auto hubs of Sriperumbudur and Oragadam that house the big firms like Hyundai, Nissan, Renault, Ford, Royal Enfield and Yamaha are located in Kanchipuram district, which is an orange zone. A top official in the state government said they would decide on how to kick-start production activity in these zones after the central government comes out with its guidelines, expected to be released on Wednesday. Tiruppur textile manufacturers, despite being in the red zone have been pushing the government to open up factories at limited capacity. That is because they have to make samples for clients in the UK, the US and Europe in the coming weeks. Raja N Shanmugam, president of Tiruppur Exporters Association, when asked how they could open an industry hub in the red zone said: "If they don't reopen we will all die. Government is well aware of the seriousness of the issue." There are, of course, others like JSW that despite being under ESMA have virtually suspended production because of logistical challenges and lack of demand. However, they want to get going now, and the company is slowly mobilising around 7,500-8,000 third-party contract workers for its plant in Dolvi in Raigad district of Maharashtra. Arrangements are being made for them to stay in tents put up on the factory premises. It has also applied to the state government to provide bus service for those employees who might have to commute.

Source: Business Standard

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FICCI panel seeks relief based on Dutch-model wage subsidy

The letter has urged, mainly for wage subsidy to large employers, on the lines of the Netherlands and Australia . A group of industry captains of private security, cash logistics and facility management sectors, led by Rituraj Kishore Sinha, Group MD, SIS India, has written to finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman seeking a five-point relief package to protect 10 million minimum wage level jobs of security guards and cleaning personnel. The letter has urged, mainly for wage subsidy to large employers, on the lines of the Netherlands and Australia “Our customers are advising us about 3-4 months delay in payments, expecting us to waive the 5 to 8% service charge. They have also advised on reducing staff strength. Industry is estimating a 25- 50% decline in revenues in coming months,” wrote Sinha, who is also chairman of FICCI’s committee on private security, in the letter to FM on the distress faced by these sectors.

Source: Financial Express

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Global Textile Raw Material Price 16--04-2020

Item

Price

Unit

Fluctuation

Date

PSF

896.20

USD/Ton

7.11%

16-04-2020

VSF

1288.38

USD/Ton

0%

16-04-2020

ASF

1765.50

USD/Ton

0%

16-04-2020

Polyester    POY

704.36

USD/Ton

-1.49%

16-04-2020

Nylon    FDY

1854.70

USD/Ton

0.77%

16-04-2020

40D    Spandex

4035.03

USD/Ton

0%

16-04-2020

Nylon    POY

969.82

USD/Ton

-0.72%

16-04-2020

Acrylic    Top 3D

1840.54

USD/Ton

0%

16-04-2020

Polyester    FDY

2010.44

USD/Ton

0%

16-04-2020

Nylon    DTY

891.95

USD/Ton

0%

16-04-2020

Viscose    Long Filament

2265.28

USD/Ton

0%

16-04-2020

Polyester    DTY

5210.14

USD/Ton

0%

16-04-2020

30S    Spun Rayon Yarn

1840.54

USD/Ton

-0.04%

16-04-2020

32S    Polyester Yarn

1401.64

USD/Ton

0%

16-04-2020

45S    T/C Yarn

2208.65

USD/Ton

0%

16-04-2020

40S    Rayon Yarn

1996.28

USD/Ton

-0.70%

16-04-2020

T/R    Yarn 65/35 32S

1776.83

USD/Ton

0.40%

16-04-2020

45S    Polyester Yarn

1614.01

USD/Ton

0%

16-04-2020

T/C    Yarn 65/35 32S

1776.83

USD/Ton

-14.04%

16-04-2020

10S    Denim Fabric

1.18

USD/Meter

0%

16-04-2020

32S    Twill Fabric

0.65

USD/Meter

0%

16-04-2020

40S    Combed Poplin

0.94

USD/Meter

0%

16-04-2020

30S    Rayon Fabric

0.50

USD/Meter

0%

16-04-2020

45S    T/C Fabric

0.65

USD/Meter

0%

16-04-2020

Source: Global Textiles

Note: The above prices are Chinese Price (1 CNY = 0.14158 USD dtd. 16/04/2020). The prices given above are as quoted from Global Textiles.com.  SRTEPC is not responsible for the correctness of the same.

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British clothing retailer Next reopens online business

The online operation, which provides over half of Next's revenue, has been closed since March 26. The retailer's stores were shut on March 23, a day before Britain went into lockdown. British clothing retailer Next will reopen its online business having implemented additional safety measures to cope with the coronavirus emergency, it said on Tuesday. The online operation, which provides over half of Next's revenue, has been closed since March 26. The retailer's stores were shut on March 23, a day before Britain went into lockdown. Under government guidelines online businesses are allowed to remain open. "Next has since implemented very extensive additional safety measures and having consulted with colleagues and our recognised union, USDAW, it will re-open online in a very limited way from today," the retailer said. Initially only categories that customers most need will be offered, such as childrenswear and selected small home items. Other product ranges may be added at a later date. Next said operations will start with support from staff who are willing and able to safely return to work. "The idea is to begin selling in low volumes, so that we only need a small number of colleagues in each warehouse at any one time, helping to ensure rigorous social distancing is complied with," it said. To achieve these limited volumes, the company will only allow customers to order the number of items that it believes can be picked safely on any given day. At that point Next will then stop taking orders and convert the website to "browse only" until the following morning. Shares in Next, down 34% so far in 2020, closed Friday at 4,624 pence, valuing the business at 6.1 billion pounds ($7.65 billion).

Source: Reuters

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Pakistan: Interest on loans, returns, energy bills: Textile industry seeks relief for a quarter

The country's textile industry has sought extension in payment of interest on loans/advances, date for sales tax returns and deferment of energy bills for March and April for at least one quarter. These demands were made in letters to Minister for Energy Advisor Finance, Advisor Commerce, Governor State Bank of Pakistan and Chairman FBR. Textile industry maintains that the future outlook for textile markets is extremely bleak where currently, the bulk of the export orders already stand cancelled and where not cancelled, the foreign buyers are asking long-term extended credits. Western analysts have unequivocally classified textiles as one of the markets that would take years to recover to its pre-Covid turnovers as textiles is not an essential commodity and consumer preferences will necessarily change for the worse on non-essential consumer goods, once the markets reopen. The domestic market for all practical purposes has completely collapsed with little hope that it would recover to 50 per cent of its pre-Covid levels even by the end of the year. The cash flow crisis is even more acute for indirect exporters who have not been paid anything out of the releases for sales tax/DLTC, etc. “As a matter of record these indirect exporters have not been paid a dime over the last three weeks and are unlikely to receive any payment of salaries and wages ( even vide the new loan scheme), interest charges, energy bills and supplies of intermediate products and raw materials. Indirect exporters or manufacturers of intermediate products are already in this crisis situation," said Executive Director Aptma, Shahid Sattar, adding that in the absence of any cash flow either from export or domestic sales, it is simply not possible to make payments for interest on all types of loans/advances for the quarter ended March 31, 2020 under the current very grave circumstancesAptma requested Governor SBP to defer payment of interest on all types of financing for one quarter at least. The Association further stated that in the absence of any cash flow either from export or domestic sales, it is simply not possible to make payments for RLNG/gas and electricity for at least the next three months, hence payment of bills be deferred for at least one quarter. In the letter to Chairperson FBR, Aptma said that it is possible to make payments for sales tax of January, February and March due on April 15, 2020, requesting extension in date of sales tax returns and payments for textile sector by at least a month. In a letter to Secretary Commerce, Sardar Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera, textile industry has stated that the validity of certificates issued by FBR for special energy rates were valid till March 30, 2020. Under the current Covid-19 created circumstance extension of validity of these certificates to June 30, 2020 is critical.

Source: Business Recorder

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How and Why Standardization Will Benefit the E-Textile Industry

In e-textiles, developers spend too much time finding out which component works with which. What the industry needs is a collaborative effort in the electronics and textile industries to work toward common standards. E-textile is a booming market in the electronics sector—and in the textile sector. Being at the crossroads of two industries has problems of its own. Christian Dalsgaard, founder and former CTO of Ohmatex in Denmark, learned that the hard way while developing state-of-the-art wearables for the European Space Agency, among others. He argues for standards in e-textile. Senior Technology Editor Bill Wong chats with Christian about this growing need.

Which problems are shaping e-textile nowadays?

There are two clusters of problems—the first cluster has to do with the central challenges of e-textile. The most important one is unifying something hard with something soft, something rigid with something flexible. Also, you need to make a device as small as possible, while maintaining its performance. And then there’s the challenge to make cabling, connectors and electronics sealing that will survive hostile environments—sweat, washing machines, tumble dryers, to name the most obvious. The second cluster of problems is about the fact that two supply chains are involved in e-textile. One is concentrated around the traditional textile industry, where there’s a group of companies involved in the production of conductive yarn, sensing fabrics, and confectioning garments. The other is concentrated around the production of electronics and mechanical components, involving robotics and automated processes. Textile and electronics are coming together in e-textile, but they come from very different backgrounds. Some of the elements include price points that are very different and the manufacturing process for cloth is still labor-intensive. Moreover, the turnaround time in fashion is short. There needs to be a new collection every three months, whereas the turnaround time in electronics is on average two years. Of course, there are exceptions—certain headphones from 2007 are still hot and being sold. People working in electronics are generally nerds rooted in STEM, while in textile they hate mathematics and science. There’s also a gender factor. In the textile industry, there’s a predominance of women, while in electronics you’ll find mostly men. The gender aspect influences the industry on many levels, from the people working in it to the solutions consumers are interested in. Women choose clothes for being comfortable, or for expression, while expression is much less of an issue for men, who rather look for functionality in their clothes—to protect themselves from heat or cold. These factors play a minor role in electronics. In short, each industry has its own standards and accepted solutions, embedded in very diverse industrial history and cultures.

Which problems in e-textile are suffering most from the lack of standardization?

Imagine a world of mobile phones without USB or Bluetooth standards. A supplier would need to develop headsets, hands-free car kits, loudspeakers, and many other accessories—each device individually designed for a specific brand. This is the situation e-textile is in, which we need to get out of as fast as possible. First, let’s discuss connectors. They need to be soft and easy to integrate, but most of them are clumsy, rigid, and hard, especially in the military. Connectors in the consumer market, such as USB and USB-C, are much more consumer-friendly because they’re small and widely used. However, they’re fragile when applied to cloth, and tend to gather dirt and washing powder when being washed. We struggled with the connector in the PLACE-it project—a project Ohmatex was involved in with, among others, Philips. For this project, we developed a connector for light-emitting textiles used in phototherapy medical devices for treating babies with jaundice, or people with skin disease. To properly make the connector, we had to develop it from scratch. It was a beautifully thin and flexible interconnect that we unfortunately couldn’t afford to upscale because there was no standard we could apply to the thin design. Another problem is wiring for both power and data transfer, which needs to be flexible and must be sewn or glued into seams. There are no bus standards, textile cables, or washable interconnects that can be used straight out of the box. You need to combine a mix of wires, textile yarns, and elastic weaving methods with custom, specific connectors. And you need to solve the strain relief to prevent the wires from breaking quickly. Finally, you need shielded cables to isolate radiation and radio interference. Making wearable processing units are a nightmare, too. A skiing jacket with heating elements, for example, needs a controlling unit with an on/off switch, an LED panel, and controls for power level, temperature levels etc. The same goes for ECG shirts, where the interface controls are very similar. If you were building a computer, you would buy, for instance, a standard network board, a graphic card from Asus or G-force—components that are plug-and-play. In e-textile, you sit together with an electronic engineer who has, by that time, already been working on it for months—ordering resistors, capacitors, ICs; working at a breadboard, etc. And then you’re only just getting started! Compared to making computers, making a garment in e-textile is like making the garment AND having to invent zippers, reflectors, yarn, a sewing machine and a washing machine—and don’t forget the washing powder, too! Developers are struggling not only with the absence of standards, but also with the non-existence of industrially proven solutions. You can find breathable and stretchable conductive fabrics that are used for many bio-sensing applications, like ECG, skin temperature measurement, and motion capturing. But such fabrics are hard to fixate to a foil-based electronics board, which is industry standard in electronics. There’s no glue specifically developed for this purpose, so as a developer you need to conduct a lot of experiments yourself with pressure, heat, etc., before you can find the right combination that works for the wear and tear endured by that e-textile. Speaking of wear and tear, washing is a good example of where the two supply chains need to join forces and be willing to venture out in each other’s field of expertise. Take, for instance, soft displaying—they have to endure washing when built into a sleeve. Here responsibility lies with both parties, but some people in electronics have been known to elegantly drop the responsibility like a hot potato, saying “washing is not our task.”Yet I have also witnessed the textile side saying the same thing: “Oh, that’s electronics, we know nothing about that.” Yes, but in the case of washing there is, for obvious reasons, far more expertise on the textile side than on the electronics side! You can see how this slows down the development process. More expertise in stressing electronics, and standards for it, would benefit the whole e-textile industry significantly. So, we can agree on the need for standardization in e-textile. What’s necessary to move forward? What e-textile needs is a collaborative effort, in both the electronics industry and textile industry, to work toward common solutions for interconnects, data and power buses, wearable processing units, soft displaying, and energy harvesting. An e-textile developer should in principle only be concerned about sensor integration, the industrial design of body-worn devices, and embedded software for the applications. The big question is, of course, how to bring about such common solutions. In the 1980s, Bill Gates formed a partnership with IBM to bundle Microsoft's operating system with IBM computers. That was a tremendous breakthrough for the whole software industry, because now you didn't need to manage program execution, files access, display interface, and devices like the keyboard and mouse. A similar revolution is needed for e-textiles, but it’s not going happen in a startup, like Microsoft was at the time, because the cost is too high for a single company. Also, many skills like industrial design, electronics design, textile engineering and embedded software are necessary to make it happen. It is more a merger of existing technologies rather than a completely new approach, like the Microsoft/IBM combination was. Such a merger will not take place overnight. It will be an incremental process rather than a paradigm shift, and a process that’s hard to predict, given the number of players involved. With Bluetooth, inventor Ericsson organized a Special Interest Group with four other companies initially, who pooled their knowledge and experience and added to the Bluetooth technology through the years. This helped develop and refine Bluetooth technology, and it got even better when more companies came on board and helped establish the standard. On the hardware side, USB is an example of a standard solution that gained permanence in the market thanks to collaboration between producers of computers and producers of devices. Growth of USB was also greatly helped by the release of Windows 98 and the adoption of USB by Apple, which dropped all other connections in favor of a USB port with the introduction of the first iMac.

What can e-textile learn from these examples?

Trends and movements toward standardization and/or merging are already happening in textile and electronics. In 2004, when I started out in e-textile, we had to develop our own conductive yarns. This is no longer necessary because many yarn manufacturers have developed a variety of very good products with excellent conductive properties and strength. The IPC D-72 E-Textiles Materials Subcommittee is now able to finalize a standard IPC-8921, covering requirements for conductive fibers and conductive yarns, including standardized key characteristics, durability testing, and industry test methods. Such standards are the result of a retrospective effort. What’s needed to speed it up is a proactive development in both the electronics and textile industries to define standards for a more comprehensive microsystems architecture. SmartX-Europe has taken a stab at doing this (Fig. 1), but as you can see, it’s still a pretty complicated framework in which the two industries have yet to really merge. Also, End-of-Life needs more elaboration, since sustainability has become a major factor in the whole process of e-textile. If we stick to this model, I think that the e-textile industry as a whole should concentrate on the two left-hand green “bubbles”: Textile Electronics Objects Assembly and Smart Textiles Assembly. The OSI seven-layer model for communication stacks became the reference model for not only protocols, but also physical components like Ethernet connectors, routers, and switches. Having such a framework could be a great step for smart textiles. I could envision a model consisting of four layers .One layer covers standards for yarns and fabrics and the transition between the flexible textile substrate and hard connections point. It's basically to adapt existing flexprint standards for foil to also include textiles. The next layer is the connection layer, where we desperately need a flat magnetic USB-T connector that’s washable and that could be attached to textiles like any other snap fasteners from underwear to outdoor jackets. On the IoT layer, I want standard electronics modules that can be sliced or snapped to a connector, providing a suitable programming platform with a full Bluetooth BLE/Wi-Fi stack, wireless charging, and a standard I/O bus for sensors based on USB, so that we have an interoperability between the connection layer and the IoT layer. On the care layer, standards for washing and tumble-drying wearables and other textile integrated technology can be defined. I would also argue for choosing possible areas or ranges of components for standardization carefully. Some are more mature for standardization than others. Soft displaying, as mentioned above, and power are fields where lots of exciting new things are happening. Many companies are working on autonomous harvesting, meaning that the wearer is simultaneously consuming and producing power—power is harvested from the wearer’s movements. Autonomous harvesting is at a very dynamic stage, where standardization would delay further development and optimization. But in other areas where development is leveling now, like housing or interconnects, standardization would greatly help the whole of the e-textile industry.

Practically speaking, how would you organize this process?

I would suggest setting up an alliance of important players in the whole value chain, meaning both textile and electronics, pledging to work out a Smart Textile Standard for main elements that are leveling now in e-textile. I would start with connectors. I think this seems to be the most promising approach with the least amount of effort. We can learn from that process, then take on another element and work our way forward. To do this, we need to find financial support before June 2020 so that the alliance can start. Then we could have a preliminary standard ready by the end of 2021. Together with skilled and knowledgeable people from the smart textile industry, we are right now working on establishing a Centre of Excellence in London, which could be up and running by June to support the alliance. The vision is to make electronics soft and textiles smart by globally aligning and standardizing the smart textile industry on the four layers described in Figure 2. The mission would be to develop standards and lead successful cross-industry alliances.

How would you convince the main players in the e-textile industry to join you?

E-textile is on the brink of entering new markets in medical, gaming, and sport if we can provide standard components and reach a price point where we can compete with handheld devices.Take the Google Jacquard by Levi’s, where an interactive cuff communicates with your smartphone through an app. That way you can access vital apps and functions just by tapping the cuff and hear information and music through your earphones. Right now, Levi’s starting price of 198 U.S. dollars for the classic Trucker Jacket with Google Jacquard technology is more than 100 dollars higher than a traditional Trucker Jacket. For the technology to become more competitive, this price needs to go down. But an even bigger impending breakthrough is a thin emulating glove, which is basically a textile hand-shaped sensor and accelerometer. It registers movements and translates them into 3D images. The same principle is already being used in the film industry, only with painted dots on an actor’s head, body, and limbs. Such a glove technique renders work with laser setups in studios and labs obsolete. An athlete, actor, or patient now only needs to wear emulating garments. In addition to the film industry, those within the sports, medical and gaming industries can use this technique to enhance user experience, but at much lower costs than required by present-day techniques. The crucial issue here is standardization of the required components. And for this we need an attitude of finding common interests between two totally different industries. Importantly, people should work together and share an interest in finding solutions. Another key element is that we need to work with open standards. In return, the partner companies in the alliance will benefit from being first-movers and gain close technical insight into the solutions discovered by the alliance. Think of Bluetooth, its logo visible on all sorts of devices. Whoever finds a new solution will have the support of all partners in the supply chain because they are the clients. They rely on the new technology that’s been developed. This creates a critical mass in a short timespan, which is crucial for creating a new market or penetrating existing ones. We’re just one step away from making this happen.

Source: Electronic Design

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US trade war, COVID-19 impact – What China’s Q1 trade data tells us?

COVID-19 inflicts pain in Q1, but puts Beijing in better place for negotiations: analysts. China's first quarter trade data released on Tuesday offered a great deal of signals on a wide range of issues, from the repercussions of the global coronavirus pandemic to the China-US phase one trade agreement and the evolving global trade flows propelled by the virus in conjunction with trade wars as well as market forces. Unsurprisingly, the data showed that the COVID-19 epidemic pandemic has inflicted considerable pain on the country's trade - more pain in certain sectors such as machinery and textiles than others like medical supplies, but it also highlighted an increasingly diversified external market for Chinese products, with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) overtaking the EU to become China's largest trading partner and trade with markets along the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) steadily rising. The bottom line is that despite the short-term pain, improving signs are emerging and the COVID-19 pandemic might have inadvertently further lifted up China's trade profile in turn putting the world's largest trading nation in a better position than ever to handle external risks, including phase two trade negotiations with the US, analysts noted.

US: biggest winner, loser

One unmistakable sign surfacing from China's first quarter trade data is that the US has managed to become both the biggest winner and loser in trade with China. While US farmers, coal miners and oil producers - those covered by the phase one trade agreement - might be cheering due to skyrocketing exports to China, the rest, particularly those who still face hefty tariffs, will certainly feel pain. In the first quarter, China's imports of US agricultural goods grew by 110 percent, with soybean imports rising 210 percent and pork imports jumping 640 percent. Still, overall imports from the US dropped 1.3 percent. "There are two points to take away from this data: one, China has been implementing the phase one trade agreement as planned; two, the pandemic and remaining tariffs have caused major losses in bilateral trade," Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who advises the government on trade issues, told the Global Times. While losses caused by the pandemic are out of our hands, tariffs are a man-made issue for the US that should be addressed. There are many calls in the US for the government to end such tariffs." As the US continues to battle the epidemicpandemic, US President Donald Trump is facing growing pressure to end his trade war. Last month, more than 100 US businesses wrote to Trump calling for him to suspend tariffs on Chinese-made goods and global steel imports, which they say could boost the US economy by $75 billion. Such faltering domestic support for Trump in the trade war, coupled with improving signs for China's trade over the past three months, despite the epidemicpandemic, sees Trump at a disadvantage in talks for a phase two agreement, even if he wants to launch one soon to boost his optics ahead of elections, analysts noted. "Time is on China's side not the US," Gao said, noting that China is open to launching phase two negotiations, "but at this point, China's asking price will not be low."

Diversifying markets

Also putting China in a more favorable place to cope with the US' tariff war, as well as a deteriorating global trade environment due to the pandemic, is an increasingly diversifying export market for China, analysts noted. In the first quarter, ASEAN, which is widely expected to be one of the fast-growing regions in the world, has overtaken the EU as China's largest trading partner, with bilateral trade volume rising 6.1 percent to 991.34 billion yuan. ASEAN surpassed the US to become China's second-largest trading partner in 2019. "This is not surprising at all. It is an inevitable trend," Tian Yun, vice director of the Beijing Economic Operation Association, told the Global Times on Tuesday, adding that trade within ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korean, plus India, Australia and New Zealand, is bigger than that of other regions. Apart from their geographically close proximity, major players in the region have continued to boost integration in recent years, though internal disagreements remain. China has free trade agreements with many of them, including ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand, with more underway, including what could be the largest deal ever - the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP. In wake of the coronavirus pandemic, some in the region are eyeing even closer cooperation. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang held talks with leaders from ASEAN, Japan and South Korea on Tuesday in a special virtual summit to discuss joint epidemic prevention and control as well as trade cooperation. Li called for joint efforts to revive economic development and push for regional economic integration, including reducing tariffs and removing trade barriers. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was scheduled to hold talks with leaders from ASEAN, Japan and South Korea on Tuesday to discuss joint epidemic prevention and control as well as trade cooperation. If the countries join hands, they could not only be able to effectively stop the virus from returning to the region but also lead the global economy to recovery, analysts said. "Only a diversified development strategy could lift up China's foreign trade," Wei Jianguo, a former Chinese vice commerce minister, told the Global Times on Tuesday, adding that China should boost trade with ASEAN, the EU, Japan, the US as well as other emerging markets. In terms of emerging markets, China's massive investment in the BRI appears to be yielding positive results. In the first quarter, Chinese trade with countries along the BRI grew by 3.2 percent, 9.6 percentage points higher than the pace of overall growth. Old, new growth areasStill, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be extremely painful for many Chinese sectors, including machinery, electronics and textiles. In the first quarter, export of machinery and electronics, which account for nearly 60 percent of China's total exports, dropped 11.5 percent, while export of textiles, garments and other labor-intensive sectors fell 15.3 percent. The sharp losses were caused by weeks of closures due to the epidemic, but the fast pace of work resumption and a slew of policy support measures have already lifted exports in the last month of the quarter, according to Ming Ming, chief macroeconomic and fixed-income analyst at CITIC Securities. "Overall, China's trade data for March has exceeded market expectations, with growth in both exports and imports having rebounded significantly," Ming told the Global Times. In March, China's total trade was down a mere 0.8 percent in the yuan terms compared to a 9.6 percent fall in the first two months. Behind the rebound is also an emerging reality that the world still needs China's manufacturing sector for everything from medical face masks to daily goods, as the pandemic has shown, despite calls from some Western officials to relocate production outside of China, analysts said. While China imported more medical supplies during the first two months of the year, when the epidemic was still serious in the country, China has since become the biggest supplier of medical products, with countries around the world, including the US, proactively relaxing restrictions, lowering tariffs and sending planes to pick up supplies from China. Between March 1 and April 4, China exported a total of 10.2 billion yuan worth of supplies, including 3.86 billion masks, 37.52 million protective gowns and 16,000 ventilators, according to data last week. "As the pandemic caused production halt in some countries, these countries can only turn to China, which has the most complete manufacturing sector to "help," not only for daily consumer goods but also production materials," Wei said.

Source: Global Times

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