FAISALABAD/RAHIM YAR KHAN – If the ongoing gas and electricity crisis continues, the Pakistan Textile Exporters Association and the Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Wednesday threatened to take to the streets across the city on Saturday, besides stopping the payment of government dues.

Addressing a press conference, Chairman Asghar Ali said that “non-serious” attitude of the government was the root cause of the problem, which is negatively impacting the country’s textile industry. He added that the textile industry has an annual export turnover of USD 14 billion with millions of workers. Asghar said that the PTEA had fixed a deadline for the government of December 28 to resolve the issue failing which it would take to the streets on the morning of the 29th, he added.

In the first phase, a protest demonstration will be held at Khurrianwala and protest rallies would be taken out across the city on 31st. In the third phase, all the industrial units will be closed and textile millers would stop paying all government dues. He said the country was going through a tough time due to lack of planning to address the energy crisis.

Khurrianwala Industrial Estate Association Chairman Khurram Mukhtar said that the severe shortage of gas and electricity would bog down the textile exports in quagmire and textile industrialists and workers would launch protest campaign in all the major textile hubs across the Punjab, he said.

He added that closure of industrial units would bring jobless labourers on the roads creating law and order. If the situation persists, it is likely to impact over 450 industrial units and more than 2.5 million workers, he said. He demanded that the government should take steps to ensure adequate power and gas supply for the textile industry. He added that a textile mills can function viably only if it remains operational round the clock and throughout the year. Today, the situation has become worst and it has become unviable for the industry to keep its operations intact, he added.

Expressing the willingness to go to any extent, Syed Zia Alamdar, the vice chairman of the Hosiery Manufacturers Association, said that they could even shut down the entire industry if the government failed to address the problem. He said, “The industry is backbone of the country but if the government is in no need of the industry, we are ready to shut it down.”

He said that around 80 percent of the textile industries are in Punjab and these industries had employed 15 million people and by neglecting Punjab industries, the government is neglecting major part of country’s industry.  “We fear a 25 percent cut in our export targets due to the present crises,” he added. Later, hundreds of textile workers staged a protest against loadshedding.

Zahid Aslam, President of Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that the suspension of electricity supply to industrial units of Faisalabad will prove to be a last nail in the coffin. The FCCI will adopt other options if the electricity is not restored till December 28, he added. The majority of power-reliant mills ahd already been closed due to unprecedented loadshedding. The industry is likely to lose around 3-billion US$ export due to energy crisis, he added.

The FCCI leader urged that Hydel Power generation dams to be constructed on war footing in order to overcome the electricity crisis. Due to the unavailability of electricity and gas coupled with high prices of gas and electricity units, the industrial and textile sector were on the verge of collapse, he observed.

“Millions of labourers have become jobless and are about to agitate on the roads due to the prevalent crisis. The jobless labourers will further aggravate the law and order situation in Faisalabad, which might not be controllable by the law enforcement agencies. Due to the high cost of doing business, the textile products had already become incompetitive in the international markets. The textile sector will not accomplish export production targets if energy crisis prolongs. The EU concessionary package and trade with India will become meaningless in these circumstances,” said Zahid Aslam.

He said the government functionaries should put their all-out effort in order to overcome the energy crisis in the country, if the economic managers are serious in stabilising the economic and law and order situation.

GAS, POWER OUTAGES ADD TO WOES: Because of indefinite loadshedding of electricity and gas throughout the Punjab, the textile industry has deferred procurement of cotton lint from ginning factories creating apprehensions in the cotton industry.

Sources said there are worries about retardation in production process, slowdown of cotton exports and job loss of tens of thousands of workers as well as fears of economic crisis for ginners and farmers. Mr Ihsanul Haq, the former executive member of the Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association, said that the unexpected increase in seed cotton (phutti) arrival up to 15 December, 2012 and depreciation of dollar had forced cotton price downward with a loss of Rs200 per maund. Thus, he added, cotton lint price went down to Rs6,000 to Rs6,100 per maund and the cotton prices may fall further if electric and gas supply is not restored for textile sector.

The crisis of textile mills may force closing of ginning factories too, he feared and said that the Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited had promised to restore gas supply to textile mills in Rahim Yar Khan but to no avail and the crisis in cotton industry is worsening day by day.