India's apparel exports fell for the first time since 2004-05, when the quota regime was abolished worldwide.
In 2009-10 apparel exports saw a 2.6-per cent slide at $10.6 billion against $10.9 billion in 2008-09.
According to Premal Udani, chairman, Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC), exporters were in deep trouble with the garment industry reeling under unprecedented price hike of yarns and fabrics.
He added that the past four months had witnessed a mind-boggling 50 to 80 per cent increase in prices of basic raw materials, which had come just as signs of initial recovery became apparent.
Though in December last year, exports were down 8 per cent, a revival has been seen particularly in the US, which is India's single largest export destination. In the six years since quotas were abolished, exports had grown at an average of around 10 per cent and even in 2008-09, with the global meltdown at its worst, exports were up 12.8 per cent, next only to 2005-06 - the first full year after quota abolition.
The industry hopes to make a come back on the growth trajectory this year largely on revival trends in US but the sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone countries may upset calculations. Half of India's apparel exports are to Europe. Bangladesh already ahead of India and there are fears that even Vietnam may overtake India, this year.
The US and Europe which together account for more than 60 per cent of India's total garment exports, are recovering from the impact of global recession.