MUMBAI (AFP) – Workers in India’s lucrative firecracker industry say illegal Chinese imports are flooding the market and threatening their jobs as the country prepares for the Hindu festival of lights this week.
Diwali, which is on Thursday, is marked in Indian cities each year with the deafening sound of celebratory firecrackers, but those who manufacture them in the southern state of Tamil Nadu fear their decades-old monopoly is being challenged.
“Chinese firecracker imports seem to have taken off in the last two years. But this year the problem has reached enormous proportions,” said G Abiruben, president of the Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association.
“We have already lost nearly 30 per cent of our yearly sales and things do not look good,” he told AFP.
Chinese imports already dominate the market for other Diwali goods, such as lanterns, candles and decorations.
But the Tamil Nadu association says about half a million jobs are at risk from the declining sales of Indian-made firecrackers, and has called for government intervention to stop illegal imports.
Authorities recently issued a public notice reiterating that it is illegal to import foreign crackers without a licence because they contain explosive materials. Anyone caught can face up to three years in jail and be slapped with a 5,000 rupees ($82) fine – though the law is rarely enforced.
But with China continuing to undercut India on manufacturing costs, their cheaper rival firecrackers are widely available in India stores.
One shopkeeper on the outskirts of Mumbai, who declined to be named, said they had received no complaints from customers about their Chinese goods, despite claims from domestic producers that Chinese made firecrackers are more dangerous.
Other sellers insisted they were not dealing in the illegal imports from China.