Agri Business

Punjab’s exports thrown off track by farmers’ rail blockade

Mamuni Das New Delhi | Updated on November 27, 2020 Published on November 27, 2020

Trade derailed A farmer rests on a railway track during the ‘Rail Roko’ protest at Devi Dass Pura village near Amritsar (file picture)   -  -

Hosiery, other sectors may miss international Christmas deliveries

There’s no Christmas cheer for hosiery, wool and textile exporters from Punjab. Typically international demand peaks this time of the year but the nearly two-month long rail blockade in the State, that saw agitating farmers occupy tracks, has hit freight movement badly.

The rail-roko (stop) movement, which started on September 24 in protest against the Central farm bills, eased only on November 23. But it prevented a large number of firms from doing preparatory work for exports.

TS Ahluwalia, President, North India Shippers’ Association (NISA), said hosiery and woollen sectors have suffered big losses. “Usually exporters have to produce, repack samples and send the products 1-1.5 months ahead of winter setting in. This ensures that woollen and hosiery products reach their destinations in Europe and the US in time for shops to display them just ahead of Christmas,” Ahluwalia said, adding that he estimated some 10,000-12,000 containers were stuck.

Shift to roads

Other industries, including cycle parts, hand tools, fasteners and auto parts, were also thrown off track due to the blockade. Some of the rail users shifted to the roads, but bore the brunt of higher road freight rates. Raw material costs (including domestic steel) soared for the Punjab-based industries.

Due to the agitation, trains could not operate through the State disrupting coal movement and power supply. Also, supplies of fertiliser, foodgrain, petroleum products could not reach the State.

Journey of various export-import products that are stuffed in containers and moved by trains to ports were disrupted.

SC Ralhan, President, Ludhiana Hand Tools Association, told BusinessLine that several buyers usually commute in trains to Punjab to buy and carry products. Several rail users who switched to the road sector ended up paying higher rentals, he said.

Ralhan rued that costs increased by ₹2-3 lakh per container during the two months blockade. Importers faced acute shortage of raw material like dhaga (thread), chemicals for electroplating, he said.

RCF output

Interestingly, the Kapurthala-based Rail Coach Factory (RCF) managed to stick to its production schedule. “Its inputs or raw materials use the road sector. RCF’s output (coaches), which require rail tracks, were accommodated in the factory’s yards and the tracks of Firozpur division, Northern Railway. They could accommodate coaches as there was space on tracks,” an RCF official said.

Meanwhile, Punjab has estimated the industry losses at ₹30,000 crore due to the two months of disruption, according to an official statement.

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

Published on November 27, 2020
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor