Exporters seek rethink on British visitors’ quarantine mandate

Could hit orders for Indian handicrafts as the U.K. is the largest buyer

Even as the 10-day quarantine norm for British nationals kicks in on Monday, a leading export promotion body has urged the government for a rethink as it could curtail the entry of U.K. buyers and hit new orders just when business is returning to some normalcy.

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The Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, signalling that the mandatory quarantine for visiting British nationals could hurt efforts to attain the government’s record $400 billion target for exports this year.

The U.K. is the largest export market for India’s handicraft exports, which stood at ₹25,680 crore in 2020-21, recording a growth even in the COVID-19 pandemic hit-year, as per EPCH data. This does not include handmade carpets, where India accounts for 40% of total world exports. Carpet exports in 2020-21 were almost $1.5 billion.

“We would like to draw your attention towards the recent policy decision… being implemented in response to the similar measure being applied on Indian nationals arriving in Britain,” EPCH Chairman R.K. Malhotra said in a communique to the PM, seeking a carve-out from the new norms for business visitors.

The decision could adversely impact the Council’s bi-annual flagship programme to attract overseas buyers and secure new orders, the Indian Handicrafts and Gifts Fair, scheduled to take place from October 28 to 31, Mr. Malhotra indicated.

Over 1,500 overseas buyers are expected to attend the first such physical exhibition since the pandemic’s onset, which would also see orders being placed for the Christmas gifting season.

“In order to achieve the Government of India’s target of $400 billion of merchandise exports this year, it is important that the physical activities in the for of business exhibitions and buyer-seller meets are organised so as to encourage in-person visit to these events and business is transacted,” the EPCH Chairman noted.

“Keeping in view the same, it is requested that the mandatory quarantine may kindly be exempted for British nationals who are travelling to India on a business visa specifically to source from Indian exhibitions,” he concluded, pinning exporters’ hopes on “a positive consideration”.

With over 10,000 handicrafts exporters as members, the Council chief pointed out that an estimated 7 million artisans, including women and workers from economically weaker sections, are engaged in producing handicrafts. The EPCH has sent a similar missive to the Cabinet Ministers in charge of Home Affairs, External Affairs, Civil Aviation, and Commerce and Industry, as well.

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