Exporters have raised serious concerns over 100 per cent examination of all containers coming from China and Hong Kong at all airports and seaports, including Mumbai, Delhi, and Chennai, saying the move is causing inordinate delay in clearance of import consignments.
They have urged the government to give instructions to Indian customs authorities to fast-track the clearance of these import consignments.
The development assumes significance in the wake of increasing border tensions between India and China. The Indian and Chinese armies are locked in a bitter stand-off at multiple locations in eastern Ladakh for the past six weeks, and the tension escalated manifold after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a violent clash in the Galwan Valley on June 15.
In a letter to Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) Chairman M Ajit Kumar, Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) Chairman A Sakthivel have urged for expeditious clearance of import consignments as undue delay is impacting operations of the domestic industry.
He said that lately, customs authorities are doing 100 per cent examination of goods originating from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
"This has created undue delay in clearance of imported shipments of inputs which are meant for manufacture of garments for exports. It is affecting factory operations as inputs are held up at ports and exporters are in fear that they will fail to meet the delivery schedule," Sakthivel said.
He added that as the business is gearing up to get back to the normal after the relaxation of lockdown in India and other foreign countries, such delays in clearing the import consignments from China were adding to the crisis.
The industry, he said, is dependent on several inputs that are domestically not available or as per the buyers' nomination, have to be imported.
So far, such imports were subject to random and partial checks only, he added.
"The situation at all airports and seaports at Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Tuticorin and others is precarious as there is inordinate delay caused on all import consignments which are held up due to 100 per cent open examination by Customs, who are not processing the documents for the shipments originated from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan," he said.
The council has requested the government to urgently intervene in the matter to expedite the process of clearing the shipments of inputs that are held up at ports or going through 100 per cent inspections.
"Special priority should be given to manufacturer exporters who are dependent on these imports to service their export orders," Sakthivel said adding that if the resolution of matter would get further delayed, it might result in financial losses to exporters.
Sharing similar views, Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) President S K Saraf said customs authorities are opening all the containers as against the previous norm of checking containers randomly.
"I would urge the government to resolve the matter immediately and fast-track the clearance processes," Saraf said.
A leather exporter from Chennai said the move would only hurt domestic industry as they have paid for these imports that are stuck at ports.
"If the government wants to do higher scrutiny, they should do that for finished goods' containers and not for raw material consignments. The matter should be resolved soon," Mecca Rafeeque Ahmed, chairman of Farida Group of Companies, said.
Amid heightened border tensions with China, Indian customs officials are conducting physical inspection of all consignments coming from the neighbouring country based on intelligence inputs although there is no formal order on the same.
The move has resulted in a retaliatory action by China with Indian exporters complaining of shipments being held up in Hong Kong.