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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

What the future holds: uncertain times for India's $8.85bn plastics exports 

Export of plastics grew by more than 17 per cent over the last fiscal year

India’s export of plastics grew by more than 17 per cent in the last year, with the UAE among the county's top three markets.

India largely exports raw plastic materials abroad, which account for more than a third of the plastic that the country sends overseas. This is followed by plastic films and sheets, packaging, and optical items, along with other plastic goods.

India’s export of plastics climbed to $8.85 billion (Dh32.51bn) during the financial year between April 2017 and March 2018, according to the Plastics Export Promotion Council (Plexconcil), which is sponsored by the government of India

“United States, China and the United Arab Emirates were top three destinations for India’s plastic products during 2017 to 2018,” says AK Basak, the chairman of Plexconcil. “These three countries accounted for 25.7 per cent of India’s plastic product exports, by value. We had been targeting to breach the $1bn export mark to the United States and we achieved this milestone last year.”

However, the growth of that magnitude is not guaranteed this year as the central and state governments are pushing to reduce the use of plastic. Packaging made out of plastic accounts for more than 7 per cent of exported plastics from India. The state government of Maharashtra in western India has recently introduced a ban on the manufacturing and use of many disposable plastic items including bags and cutlery.

India's prime minister Nanrendra Modi has also announced plans to ban the use of all single-use plastic in India by 2022.

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Neemit Punamiya, the general secretary, of the Plastic Bag Manufacturers Association of India, a lobby group, says that such move will “definitely affect exports”.

Not all plastic products will be affected, however. Plastics formed 2.92 per cent of India’s overall merchandise exports in the last financial year, according to Plexconcil. Plastics used in the automotive, construction, and electronics sectors in general will not be impacted because they do not come under the category of single-use plastics, which are causing environmental damage when they are not disposed of responsibly.

“The country's plastics industry offers immense potential in terms of capacity, infrastructure and skilled manpower. India is currently ranked among the top five consumers of polymers in the world and has 30,000 plus plastic processing units employing over four million people across the country, according to Plexconcil. “Plastics are among the fastest-growing industries in the country.”

To strive to continue to grow exports, Mr Basak says that companies in India are investing in “upgrading technology, increased research and development spend, and innovative marketing strategies directed towards increased export of value-added plastic products from India”.