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The Agra district of India is renowned for its handmade leather shoe industry, which has not just been halted by the Covid-19 pandemic, but “set back decades”, according to IndiaToday.
The industry was hopeful that business would recover in 2021, but the second wave of Covid-19 is gaining momentum in India and the industry is at a stand-still. According to footwear industry insiders, as reported by IndiaToday, exports to Europe and the U.S. have dropped 40% compared to pre-pandemic figures. Shoemakers are struggling to meet orders due to the 35% price increase of raw materials, and factory labour has been disrupted by uncertainty and the risk of working in large groups.
The Council for Leather Exports (CLE) leaders met Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and requested the repeal of 10% duty imposed on leather imports. They also requested that export incentives be reinstated for the industry. A decision has not yet been made by the CLE.
Operators in the footwear industry are concerned about pandemic control measures such as night curfews and lockdowns and fear that shipments could be impeded.
Agra Footwear Manufacturers and Exports Chamber (AFMEC) vice-chairman Shahru Mohsin told IndiaToday that the prices of chemicals used in the manufacture of footwear have risen 40% and the raw material costs have gone up by as much as 70%. Consequently, the manufacturing cost of shoes has increased, and units are attempting to reduce their operational expenses. This has a knock-on effect on employment, with daily-wage workers being asked to work fewer days per week.
According to the article, the city has a 65% share in the domestic footwear production of India and 27% of footwear exports are done through its approximately 200 exports units. Over 7,500 domestic footwear units are employing nearly 250,000 people, with export figures from Agra said to reach Rs 5,000 crores (US$66.7 million) a year. Members of the Agra footwear industry fear that more forced factory closures could mean the end for the local industry.