Slowly but sure-footedly, tufted coir mats have gradually replaced India’s handloom coir mats that had been a popular doormat choice in the US and European markets.
According to the Federation of Indian Coir Exporters Association, the reasons for the popularity of tufted mats in the overseas markets are lower freight charges and timely delivery.
On the other hand, frequent strikes in the handloom industry have delayed shipments of handloom coir mats, affecting its standing in the export market.
Today, India enjoys a 95 per cent share in tufted coir mats or vinyl backed machine-made printed and plain coir mats in the world market. The remaining five per cent comes from Sri Lanka, Vietnam and China, export sources said, adding that shipments from China are mostly re-exports of mats imported from India.
According to Coir Board statistics, tufted mat exports during April-September period of the current fiscal were 33,150 tonnes valued at ₹328.31 crore — up 15 per cent in quantity and 19 per cent in value over the same period previous fiscal.
Tufted mat was the second biggest value-added product in the coir and coir products export basket after coir pith that witnessed a 33 per cent surge in shipments.
There has been a steady increase in exports for the product during the last five years from 45,770 tonnes in 2015-16 to 58,300 tonnes in 2019-20.
P Mahadeven, Member, Coir Board, representing exporters, told BusinessLine that another reason for the popularity of tufted mats was its relatively lower pile height that makes it possible to load almost double the number of handloom mats in a 40-feet container.
In the place of 4,000 handloom fibre mats of 30 mm thickness and 6,000 handmade creel mats measuring 22 mm in thickness, a buyer can ship 10,000 machine made tufted mats that have a pile height of only 15 mm.
A single machine can make 6,000 tufted mats a day, while one weaver can make only 6-10 handloom mats a day, he said.
On the business prospects for the tufted coir mat industry, he said the past six months have been exceptionally good and bad. Though all manufacturers have full order books, coir yarn price increased by 25 per cent, while vinyl or PVC that is used to make the backing of the tufted mats turned 80 per cent costlier, resulting in a rise in the base mats price by 25 per cent.
Exporters are unable to openly negotiate for higher prices in the absence of major trade fairs such as Domotex and Heimtextils in Germany and HEPC Fair in Delhi. At 2019 prices, exporters are bleeding money due to high production cost and increasing demand, Mahadevan said.
As the current situation is expected to continue till May, most of the units may have to slash output or stop production after March.
The closure of top emulsion grade PVC manufacturing companies for maintenance and pandemic-related reasons cut short PVC production. The crisis was further aggravated by a supply crunch due to a production stoppage in the factories in the US Gulf coast causing polymer and olefin prices to flare up.