Exports were £ 653 billion in 2020-21; Labor shortages hit the granite sector hard
The special economic zone for building materials in the Prakasam district posted an impressive performance in the fiscal year just ended and successfully adapted to the new normal during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The SEZ exported processed natural stone material and artificial stone material worth 653 crore in the period 2020-21 compared to 446 crore in the previous year, thanks to the increased global demand for the products, sources in the APIIC said.
On the other hand, imports of capital goods fell 46% to £ 46 billion over the period. The import of raw materials for processing increased from 60 crore to 82 crore during the reporting period.
Artificial stone material accounted for the lion’s share of exports from SEZ to the USA (53.7%), as the overseas players showed a declining interest in natural stone material due to the uncertainty.
“Policies that hinder growth”
The state government’s policies on license fees, dead rents and galloping diesel prices have adversely affected the growth of the sector, the sources said.
The captains of industry and trade were unable to fully develop the export market for types of granite, including the world-famous granite of the black galaxy in and around Chimakurthy, due to the acute labor shortage.
The sector depends mainly on migrant workers from states like Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, who are over a lakh.
The majority of employees did not return after the first wave of COVID-19 had subsided, despite an improvement in their health situation.
The processing units that serve the domestic market currently only have up to 50% of the production capacity with limited labor.
The second wave of COVID-19 threatens to once again disrupt granite processing for domestic consumption as the available labor longs to return to their hometowns.
“The migrant workers long to return to their hometown because they fear that the situation could worsen after a partial curfew,” says Y. Koteswara Rao, owner of a granite cutting and polishing unit The Hindu in his unity in pernamitta.
“Our top priority is to have all workers vaccinated against the virus so that export orders can be carried out on schedule,” says M. Shivaram of Jyothi Granite Exports, a leading company in the SEZ.
Shaheen Granites MA Azeem said activity at the quarry slowed after workers in and around Chimakurthy tested positive.
The granite barons who direct their exports through the port of Krishnapatnam also face a shortage of ships.
They want authorities to make vaccines available to all workers over the age of 18 to break the chain of the fast-spreading mutant virus.