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Trading in tresses: Locks of contention

Amiti Sen | | Updated on: Jan 26, 2022
Due to the increased crack down on smuggling of raw hair to China at various customs ports since last year, Indian exports of processed hair increased to about $367 million in 2020-21

Due to the increased crack down on smuggling of raw hair to China at various customs ports since last year, Indian exports of processed hair increased to about $367 million in 2020-21 | Photo Credit: ARUN SANKAR

Exporters of dressed human hair call for ban on raw hair exports

It’s an unusual crop – human hair - that is seeing demands for an export ban. Indian manufacturers of processed and dressed human hair are seeking total prohibition of export of raw hair from the country. This follows an export restriction imposed on the item by the government on Tuesday, to put a stop to its rampant smuggling to China.

Manufacturers of dressed human hair, which include extensions, wigs and tassels, say a total ban will create more jobs in India. “A complete prohibition on export of raw hair can help the Indian industry achieve an estimated $3 billion worth of exports of dressed hair annually in just a couple of years which can gradually increase to at least a yearly $6 billion. This is possible as 80 per cent of raw hair originates in India,” said Sunil Eamani from Indus Hair Extensions, who has been leading the Indian industry’s efforts to get the government to take action against smuggling.

Hair smuggling

Due to the increased crack down on smuggling of raw hair to China at various customs ports since last year, Indian exports of processed hair increased to about $367 million in 2020-21, from an average of about $200-250 million over the past few years, and is likely to touch $ 1 billion this fiscal, Eamani told  BusinessLine. The size of the global market for dressed hair at present is around $ 9 billion.

Smuggling of raw human hair from India, mostly in the form of under-invoiced shipments, is estimated at an annual ₹ 9,000 crore by the industry. Curbing exports of raw hair can also bring back 8.6 lakh jobs lost due over the last years and create additional employment, added Eamani.

On Tuesday, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade issued a notification restricting the export of unworked or raw human hair. This means that raw human hair can now be exported only after the exporter obtains a licence from the government to do so.

This follows joint efforts by the Human Hair & Hair Products Manufacturers and Exporters Association of India, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), the DGFT, Ministry of Home Affairs and Customs Department to crack down on smuggling through increased vigilance and raids last year. But smuggling still continues. 

In a letter to the Commerce Secretary last month, Lok Sabha MP from Andhra Pradesh Kotagiri Sridhar, made a case for prohibition of export of raw human hair. The letter pointed out that rampant smuggling of human hair, estimated at approximately 16000 tons, was continuing to occur.

The government’s decision on this now hangs by a hair. 

Published on January 26, 2022
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