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Kashmir that has always been a major market for Amristar made products especially the tweeds which are used for making phiran, the long cloak like dress worn by men and women in Kashmir. Moreover, Amritsar’s shawls and stoles have a big market in the valley, which was virtually cut off from the rest of the country till recently. While in normal scenariomost of the stock used to get cleared in autumn itself, the busiest time for Amritsar’s weaving units and traders. This year, the markets have started to pick up only now.

The shawl trade is dominated by Kashmiris in fact, a major part of the turnover of this sector is in the hands of Kashmiris who have a large network and are the backbone of the shawl industry. However, unlike other years when the Diwali sales started one month before the festival, this year it picked up only one week before the festival.

Kashmir has also been a major market for the blended wool and recycled wool produced in Amritsar’s weaving clusters. Manufacturers and traders have experienced severe delays in payments and are not able to make their usual rounds of the valley to conduct business.

Amritsar presently has over 500 shuttle less looms in the weaving segment. Amritsar dominates the shawl and stole market throughout the country. The price of shawls made in Amritsar range from Rs 900 for a blended product to over Rs 1 lakh for premium products, including fine wool and pashmina shawls.

Before partition, Amritsar, along with Lahore, was a major centre for tourism, textiles, handlooms, rice mills, and a trading centre. The blankets, mink blankets, shawls, and tweeds manufactured in the city are well known in the sub-continent and beyond. Along with Surat, the city has been at the forefront producing cloth for ladies suits, sarees, shirts, dupattas, lehangas, dress material and other items at its warp knitting units.

The city has over 450 warp knitting units, which have hit rock bottom in recent years. “Over 370 units are not functional at present,” said Krishan Kumar Kuku, a leading warp knitting manufacturer and industry representative, who was forced to shut down one of his two units and is operating the other one at 25%capacity. “Only 10 to 15 per cent units are operational and these too are working at 20 to 25 per cent of their capacity,” he said.

Not so long ago, Amritsar had 125 processing units engaged in dyeing, embroidery, knitting and other textile work. Presently, only 35 of these are operational. Industry sources say that of the two lakh people directly and indirectly employed by the textile industry in the city, 80%  have had to return to their homes in UP and Bihar.

The sector has witnessed a major slump especially in the past one year. “First demonetisation, then GST, and now frequent changes in policy without a comprehensive strategy has bought the textile sector to its knees,” said K K Kuku. High price of raw materials, mainly man-made yarns and viscose yarns also attributes to the  sector’s downslide.

For better times ahead, the textile sector hopes for a number of things: the establishment of an institute for MSMEs, a special economic package for border areas, a comprehensive textile policy, a convention centre, and easy availability of raw material at competitive rates.

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