India stone industries demand support


Granite and stone industries demand support

In december 2008 representatives of various Indian granite and stone industries demanded a slew of measures from the Union Government to save the trade, which has been badly affected by the economic meltdown in the US and UK. They were participating in an interactive session, organised by CAPEXIL, a body sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry for promoting export.

Speaking to reporters, R Veeramani, chairman of Granite, Natural Stones and Products Panel, said, ��As an immediate support measure, the non-performing assets (NPA) norms by the Reserve Bank of India need to be extended by 18 months.�� He demanded that the interest and instalment payments be deferred by two years. Moreover, the interest rates needed to be fixed at four per cent for the stone industry, just like the Textile Upgradation Fund scheme (TUF). During the last one year, the demand for building stones dipped and payment for the shipped materials became irregular, he added.

The meeting estimated that the natural stone business, comprising granite, marble, sandstone, slates and quartzite, has dipped by 60 per cent.

Voicing concern over the nonuniformity of the State Government policies on stone industries, Veeramani said, ��The mining leasing policies and the royalty rates payable need to be levelled. The government is charging prohibitively and the policies are not export-friendly.�� The stone industry employs around 25 lakh people from unskilled low-income groups, in the areas of mining, handling, processing and exports people from unskilled low-income groups. Despite this, the Union Government has not provided any support measures as given to textile and leather sectors, said an exporter.


US recession hits Indian quarries

Hyderabad: Yet another fallout of the global financial meltdown is witnessed in India's heartland. The slowdown now hits hard the granite industry in Andhra Pradesh. Touted as the stone galaxy but now facing a financial crunch is an industry dealing in a special type of granite that comes mostly from about two dozen quarries in Chimakurthy in Andhra Pradesh.

Chimakurty is the capital of Andhra's granite industry. About 80 per cent of the granite mined here is exported to China, which puts it through the polishing process and exports it to US & European markets. "40 per cent of granite market is in US and the rest of the world. this market depends on the exports in a big way," said Reddy, a quarry owner.

But now the global financial meltdown has started hitting Andhra's granite industry as China has tightened its purse strings. The shift in trends is making it hard to find a market for several lower grade quality slabs. "Number of slabs are lying around without any buyers. Two or three quarries have even shut down due to the steep fall in demand," said Ramchander Reddy who is an Assistant Director of Mines in the government of Andhra Pradesh.

Each quarry on an average employs about 120 workers. The quarry owners are now trying to tackle the business slowdown without cutting down on labour, which is not an easy task.
The aspect worries quarry owners because the buyers insist on premium quality slabs, which is a difficult task, given the fall in labour. The global economic crisis is forcing buyers to get selective about their purchases. So while the quarry owners are thinking of cost cutting measures, the daily wage labourer only hopes he is not the next victim of the falling markets.

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