With migrants gone, jewellery exporters seeks more time to fill orders

KOLKATA: Diamond and gold jewellery exporters from Gujarat and Maharashtra are seeking more time to ship export orders as nearly four lakh migrant workers in Surat and Mumbai are unlikely to return to work before Diwali.

Orders that take 4-5 weeks to be delivered are now being executed in 6-7 weeks. Exporters fear the delay in execution of orders may result in shifting business from India to other South East Asian nations.

“Even though the times are tough, demand for jewellery exports is seeing an upsurge, and that is a huge positive for the trade” said Colin Shah, chairman, Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC).

These workers comprise those eager to resume work but are unable to because of transportation restrictions, or those reluctant to leave their families in times of crisis, Shah said.

Nearly 1 lakh workers are engaged in Mumbai in the gem and jewellery trade. “Of them, we are expecting only 50,000 to return before Diwali,” said the GJEPC chairman. Migrant workers generally come from West Bengal, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh.

The situation is similar in Surat too, the diamond cutting and polishing hub of India. “Nearly 6.5 lakh workers come to Surat to work. Of them, nearly 3.5 lakh workers are not going to come before Diwali,” said Bhavesh Tank, vice president of Diamond Workers’ Union, Gujarat.

Rahul Dholakia, managing director, Shree Ramkrishna Exports, said his company is now running only one shift. There is good demand for their products, mainly from the US and China, but “We cannot meet even 50% of the demand as the output is only 25% due to skeletal staff. Due to lesser number of people working at the customs division, consignments are also being dispatched at a slower pace.”

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Shailesh Sangani, founder, Priority Jewels, said “Mumbai jewellery trade is facing a tremendous shortage of manpower, particularly in the SEEPZ area.”

“We are coaxing workers to return by offering more money, and even air tickets for a few highly skilled workers. But they are hesitant to leave their families after having been at home for such a long time. Then, there is the constant fear of the ongoing pandemic and its proliferation across the city of Mumbai. At the moment, working in two to three shifts is the only answer to bridging the gap between increasing orders and the lack of workers,” Sangani added.

The fear is that if Indian exporters are unable to fulfil orders, they may lose business to other countries such as Thailand, Vietnam or China, all working with a larger capacity at much closer to normal than factories in India.



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