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J&K’s Dwindling Corrugation Industry

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J&K’s Dwindling Corrugation Industry

Dhaar Mehak M

Pazeer Kataria

J&K’s Dwindling Corrugation Industry! The corrugation industry is a sub-category of the paper industry. It essentially deals with the manufacturing of customised boxes made from the amalgamation of cardboard, kraft paper, adhesives, stitching, wiring etc. Corrugation boxes are an improvisation over ordinary cardboard boxes. These boxes are stronger, durable, environment friendly, cost-effective, sustainable, recyclable and easy to customise. The corrugation industry has revolutionised the modern-day world because of its environment-friendly nature. The main output produced by this industry is (customised) packaging material for multiple purposes across various intermediate and final uses.

India’s corrugation market is estimated to be worth Rs 30,000 crore. Over time, this sector has grown steadily and sustainably. Given the enormous size of the Indian economy, there has always been a high demand for the goods and services supplied by this sector. It has consistently been a highly popular business among potential entrepreneurs. The Covid-19 pandemic has, however, caused this industry to experience a recent nationwide decline. The cost of all raw materials, including the fuel for running the machinery and the cost of transportation, has skyrocketed. The sector has been further restricted by the limited import of less expensive raw materials and the increased tax burden on businesses.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the corrugation industry is directly linked to the horticulture sector. Cardboard boxes have replaced traditional wooden boxes for apple packaging to a large extent. Though the corrugation industry of J&K produces boxes for beverages, bakery, medicines, yoghurt, processed foods etc. apart from horticulture the main demand comes from the latter itself. As such the corrugation industry has been a very popular venture amongst the potential entrepreneurs in J&K. However, the post-pandemic world hasn’t been the same for the corrugators of J&K. The corrugation industry in the region has been running in losses since the beginning of the pandemic.

All of a sudden it was decided that the GST on the corrugated boxes would be increased by 6 percentage points. Initially, the purchase sale tax was 12% and so was the sales tax. After this decision, while the purchase tax is the same, the sales tax has increased to 18%. There is a direct 6% dead weight loss created, the brunt of which is born by the manufacturer. Meanwhile, the rates of the boxes have tended to remain constant declining the profit of the manufacturers by a big slash.

The first blow came with the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic right in China. Kraft paper, one of the essential raw materials, is imported into India from China. As soon as the pandemic was declared the imports were halted and the basic raw material shortage was felt. Steadily this had to be substituted with the indigenous craft paper which increased the cost of production. Other imported substitutes coming from the rest of the world also got expensive and the production cost of the industry rose immediately. This sudden nature of the shock gave the least time to the corrugators of J&K to come to terms with the outcomes.

Another major shock came with the updated taxation decision from the ministry of finance. All of a sudden it was decided that the GST on the corrugated boxes would be increased by 6 percentage points. Initially, the purchase sale tax was 12% and so was the sales tax. After this decision, while the purchase tax is the same, the sales tax has increased to 18%. There is a direct 6% dead weight loss created, the brunt of which is born by the manufacturer. Meanwhile, the rates of the boxes have tended to remain constant declining the profit of the manufacturers by a big slash.

The most important source of demand for corrugated boxes however comes from the horticulture sector in the region. And here the major concern is the competition given to the locally manufactured corrugation boxes by the imported ones coming from the neighbouring states. There are two main reasons behind this competition. One of the reasons quoted by the local manufacturers is that the business houses outside J&K are multi-project ventures, keeping the cost of production very low for the producers. As such, in the local market, these boxes are sold at a cheaper rate than those coming from our local producers. The second reason comes from the consumers who claim that the boxes coming from outside are not only superior in quality but are affordable too. The joint impact of both these reasons is a decline faced by this otherwise brimming and quoted ‘high potential’ industry in the region.

Another important local source of demand for the corrugation industry of J&K is the beverage industry located across the region. Corrugation boxes have been a preferred choice for these units. However, the growing prices of these boxes have forced this industry to look for alternatives and substitutes. After a brief research, it turns out that the beverage industry is substituting corrugation boxes with plastic and polythene packaging. At the same time posing a long-run threat to the fragile environment of the region!

 In Kashmir, the corrugation business has a direct and indirect impact on about 20,000 households. These people in a majority of the cases are not affiliated with any other economic activity. A loss to this industry will impact the members across all these households. In light of these events and factual realities, there arise some critical policy implications. For starters, the local government must restrain the unquestionable import of corrugation boxes from the rest of the country. Given that the horticulture sector is at the back of this industry, it is important that the two grow mutually and with an interdependence that is conjointly and positively reinforcing the overall growth. Immediate intervention and curtailment of the taxes is the most pressing pre-requisite for the sustenance and then eventual growth of this sector. From a longer-run perspective, the use of corrugation products instead of plastic and polythene is J&K is the basic need to keep up with the fragile ecosystem that the region is bestowed with.

The authors work with the Department of Economics, Islamic University of Science & Technology & can be reached at dhaarmehak@gmail.com 

Industry

Industrial Association Lassipora dismayed over ‘unprofessional behaviour’ of J&K Bank branch manager 

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Industrial Association Lassipora dismayed

Appeal LG, CEO J&K Bank for replacement 

Srinagar, Feb 1: Requesting Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and J&K Bank Managing Director and CEO to replace the branch manager of the bank at the estates, the Industrial Association of Lassipora (IAL) has expressed dismay over what it called the unprofessional attitude of the branch head at IGC Lassipora.

In a written statement issued to Business Kashmir, the IAL said the manager heading the J&K Bank branch in Lassipora is displaying “unethical behaviour and unprofessionalism” towards the industrialists located at the branch.

“The branch manager’s lack of knowledge and understanding of the MSME sector has resulted in several complaints from the industrial unit holders and has raised concerns among the industries that form the backbone of the local economy,” read the statement.

Lassipora is home to over 500 micro, small, and medium-scale industries, making it one of the largest industrial growth centres in Jammu and Kashmir.

Given the vital role that banking plays in the development of industries, it is essential that banks located in the vicinity of industrial areas have personnel trained in the handling of MSMEs, it said.

The Reserve Bank of India has emphasized the importance of MSMEs as a priority sector for commercial banks.

“Therefore, the Industrial Association of Lassipora respectfully requests the Honorable Lieutenant Governor and the Managing Director & CEO of Jammu and Kashmir Bank Limited to replace the current branch manager with a professional who possesses the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively handle the MSME sector,” read the statement, adding, “Such a change would significantly contribute to the growth and development of the local industries in Lassipora.”

Highlighting the significance of the MSME sector in India, IAL called on the UT and J&K Bank authorities to take necessary measures to ensure that the operations of the J&K Bank branch in Lassipora are carried out in a fair, professional, and efficient manner.

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Finance

Desist from levying commitment charges: FCIK to J&K Bank

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FCIK to J&K Bank

Srinagar, Dec 18: Federation of Chambers of Industries Kashmir (FCIK) has urged on J&K Bank authorities to withdraw their latest decision regarding levying of ‘Commitment Charges’ on the unutilised portion of the loans and credit lines provided to the enterprises.

While expressing its displeasure, the FCIK in a statement issued to Business Kashmir said that it was for the first time in the history of J&K Bank that borrowers were being made to pay for loans or the portion of loans which actually they didn’t lift or utilize. The bank would not so far levy such charges probably in acknowledgement of the un-conducive working atmosphere.

According to the guidelines issued by RBI, levying of commitment charges was not mandatory upon the financing banks but discretionary, and it was left to the wisdom of banks to charge or not to charge it, said the FCIK.

“If the plea of the bank was that they could have earned interest on the unutilised portion of the loan, had they lent it to other borrowers, the question could be asked about the gap between their credit flow and permissible limit of lending which continues to be huge despite some narrowing in the recent past,” reads the statement.

FCIK agreed that J&K Bank had been extending some small concessions including waiver of commitment charges to the borrowers of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, but that was only peanuts in reciprocity to the gesture that 88.2% of the total deposits of the bank comes from the kith and kin of these borrowers at an unprecedentedly low rate of just 3.67%  which was the lowest than available to any other national or commercial bank in the country.

While criticizing the decision, FCIK questioned the wisdom of the bank to perceive that the condition of entrepreneurs had changed for to better now to take additional brunt even after facing long spells of business interruptions from the 2014 floods to the aftermath of the Covid-19 situation. The bank should know that currently the product market appetite ran at its lowest ebb for the complexities caused by these situations besides the change in policies which obviously resulted in the lifting of lower amounts from sanctioned credit lines, reads the statement.

Hailing the prudent entrepreneurs for lifting only the required portion of the amount out of their sanctioned credit line in tune with market demand for their products, FCIK cautioned the bank not to force them to lift entire sanctioned loans for illegally siphoning it off towards any other non-bonafide activity. It was as such imperative upon the bank to withdraw the decision of levying commitment charges till the product market appetite stabilized.

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Industry

7 out of 10 industrial centres in Kashmir headless: FCIK

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FCIK to J&K Bank

Seeks LG’s intervention

Federation of Chambers of Industries Kashmir (FCIK) Wednesday said seven out of district industrial centres in Kashmir are headless, proving a roadblock in industrial development.

According to a statement issued to the Business Kashmir, during the FCIK advisory committee meeting, members expressed regret that seven out of 10 District Industries Centres (DICs) in the valley had presently been rendered headless which include DICs of Baramulla, Anantnag, Budgam, Kupwara, Kulgam, Shopian and Bandipora.

The members questioned the bureaucracy that why should it ignore replacements in DICs during routine transfers of officers when it was aware that the role of DICs in promoting, facilitating and developing industry in the district was pivotal and critical. They said that assigning of the additional charge of DICs to officers already overburdened with their own jobs, generates more distrust and scepticism than giving any hope and solace to the entrepreneurs, the members said.

Quoting an example, the members informed that General Manager DIC Baramulla who also held two more charges of GM DIC Kupwara and Programme officer ICDS at the time of transfer in March 2022 was not replaced by any other officer. Instead, the additional charge was assigned to GM DIC Budgam in May  till 17th of November when he was also transferred rendering both the DICs of Baramulla and Budgam unmanned simultaneously. The members said that DICs of Kupwara and Bandipora were now forgotten for years.

Speaking on the occasion, President Shahid Kamili said that FCIK had time and again taken up the matter of appointment of GMs with relevant authorities but it was unfortunate that instead of filling the vacant positions, many more DICs were eventually rendered headless.

The FCIK in the meeting, according the statement, has called for a considerable degree of internal cohesiveness through well-meaning and accountable bureaucracy to accomplish and foster the ambitious industrialisation process launched by the government for UT of Jammu and Kashmir.

“The presidents of various industrial estates, while registering their problems, complained of the bureaucratic hick-ups and callousness in facilitating the prospective entrepreneurs to set up their industrial ventures besides timely resolution of issues confronting smooth operations of the existing industry,” read the statement.

“The presidents cautioned that in case the bureaucratic hurdles continued without any checks and accountability, the same can harm the ambitious plan and may also produce results in the opposite direction.”

They said that the industrialisation programme would require restructuring of the whole hierarchy in the industries department with a clear chain of command that decide about matters rapidly and also delegates powers to subordinate team members. A set of officers having clear understanding of industrial promotion and dynamism in the approach needs to be put in charge of various positions for a longer duration of not less than 2-3 years, observed the members.

The meeting resolved to approach and seek the intervention of the Lieutenant Governor for taking note of the “non-seriousness on the part of the concerned bureaucracy” and issue directions for the immediate transfer of capable officers to fill the vacancies in the above-mentioned DICs. It was also decided in the meeting that FCIK shall soon submit a detailed note on the desired hierarchy of officers in industries and related departments along with their functions for the consideration of the Lieutenant Governor.

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