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Leather park debut in Calcutta

Calcutta, Aug. 20: The Indian Leather Products Association (ILPA) will set up a leather goods export park — the first in the country — near the leather complex in Bantala to give a fillip to the burgeoning industry.

The park, to come up on 200 acres at Karaidanga in east Calcutta, will accommodate 250-300 export units, association president M.V. Kulkarni said today.

The association has received the state government’s approval and will submit a formal application and project report for the “first exclusive export park for leather products” soon, he said.

Addressing the association’s 16th annual general meeting, Kulkarni said 54 exporters have shown interest in setting up shops at the complex, which will house a common facility centre and offer other services to exporters.

Welcoming the move, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said his government will extend necessary assistance to the project on a priority basis.

Pointing out that the Rs 350-crore Calcutta Leather Complex was nearing completion and a majority of tanneries have shifted to the complex, he said “we do hope that export of leather goods from Calcutta will go up substantially in the years to come”.

“The park is expected to be ready within three years and assure additional export of about Rs 500 crore, taking the total export from here to Rs 2,000 crore per annum. It will also provide additional employment to about 10,000 people,” Council of Leather Exports chairman S.S. Kumar said.

While lauding the state government’s approval for the project, Kumar criticised the Centre for delay in releasing the Rs 400 crore approved by the Planning Commission for a tannery modernisation scheme.

The chief minister assured that his government, which is already examining the hurdles to the growth of the leather industry, will also consider a suitable tax structure.

Earlier, Kulkarni urged the state government to withdraw levies on the main inputs of the leather industry. “The leather industry in West Bengal is reeling under avoidable problems of sales taxation. This has placed the state in a disadvantageous position vis-a-vis Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab,” he said.

He asked exporters to focus on the US market, dominated by China which has mastered the art of bulk-production despite having to import raw hide.

Cow bill concern

The Centre’s move to ban cow slaughter would be at the cost of about $700 million in leather exports and affect the livelihood of about 1.5 million people associated with the industry.

“The export of leather products will receive a severe jolt if cow slaughter is banned with exports expected to drop by about 30 per cent, which in value terms is about $700 million,” Kumar said.

Currently, 60 per cent of the total raw hide in the country come from slaughtered cows.

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