New Delhi: India has banned the import of toys made in China in a move that is being seen as protectionism for domestic toy manufacturers against cheap Chinese imports.
Officials from the directorate general of foreign trade (DGFT), the government agency that imposed the ban, were quoted by the media as saying that the restriction would be in force for six months, even though it did not provide a reason for placing a ban on toy imports from China.
Though local manufacturers have been demanding protection against cheap imports from China, they were caught unawares by the sudden ban.
In 2007 toy makers in the UK, Europe and the US, including Mattel, were forced to recall Chinese-made toys from the shelves of Toys ''R'' Us and Wal-Mart that were found to be painted with with toxic lead-based paints (See: California attorney general sues 20 companies for lead-contaminated toys)
Concerns over safety standards of Chinese-made products, forced China to revoke or suspended export licences of over 700 toy factories in the southern provinces, particularly Guangdong, after inspections triggered by the spate of product recalls overseas (See: China bars toys export by 700 factories)
Of late, China's toy industry has been scrutinised by other importing nations following the global recalls due to toxic lead paints and also design flaws. The global financial crisis has also taken its toll on China's toy exports on account of shrinking global demand in the important markets of US and Europe.
However, what is noteworthy is that India does not have any safety standards for toys in India, whether they are manufactured domestically or imported.
The Mumbai-based All India Toy Manufacturers Association was reported as saying that Chinese imports account for over half of the retail toy market in India, estimated to be in the range of $500 million in 2007.
Earlier in September 2008, India banned the import of Chinese milk products in the wake of a milk scandal that led to the widespread food poisoning in babies in China, followed by dairy recalls around the world (See: India bans Chinese milk products as WHO expresses concern).
China recently sentenced two officials of the tainted milk company to death, and another to life in prison over the scandal (See: Two sentenced to death in China's tainted milk scandal)
China is reported to be India's biggest trade partner, with bilateral trade having grown to $15 billion, and slated to grow further to around $20 billion by 2010.