India’s ferocious second wave of Covid-19 cases has derailed the plans of Gujarat’s Morbi-based ceramic tile makers’ to commence production at what has been a number of newly constructed plants. Indeed, such is the severity of the current domestic medical situation, that many anticipate commercial operations at most of these new plants in what is India’s largest ceramic industry cluster have been delayed by at least two to three months.
Issues pertaining to procurement, delivery and installation of machinery, availability of construction materials such as steel, a shortage of workers because of lockdowns and a lack of domestic mobility, and general Covid-19-related restrictions are being cited as the principal reasons behind the delays. Installation can be a particular issue as overseas travel becomes more limited, and remote installation of plants is a more fraught, and lengthy, process.
“The operationalization of our two new plants have been pushed back by around 45 days. The plants were expected to start commercial operations in April this year. However, one plant is expected to go on stream next month (June) and the other will start production a month after that, ” according to Bhavesh Varmora, chairman, Varmora Group, which had last year started building two plants in Morbi for manufacturing vitrified tiles.
Anticipating robust growth in demand, especially from overseas markets, ceramic tile makers in Morbi had taken up construction of about 50 new plants in late 2020. Many of them were expected to go into production in May and June 2021, just before the onset of monsoon.
“Procurement of machinery is hampered due to the shortage of import containers, and workers are also not easily available for construction due to the pandemic. Commercial production at many new plants will be delayed by two or three months,” according to Mukesh Ughreja, president of the vitrified tiles division of Morbi Ceramic Association.
“All activities pertaining to construction and commissioning of new plants have slowed down due to the second wave of the pandemic. Various services providers are facing problems of manpower as they currently operate with fewer workers. The new plants are facing delays in commercial production of up to four months. Those who targeted to begin production in twelve months will now take 16 months to start production,” according to K G Kundariya, another key office- bearer in Morbi Ceramic Association.
Meanwhile, existing plants are also operating at low capacity as tile demand from the domestic market has been affected due to the restrictions and lockdowns in several states to battle Covid-19. Exports to the international markets have also been affected due to the issues regarding availability of containers to ship tiles.
With India going through such a difficult time, it seems almost churlish to consider that the ceramic industry can be that important. However, it puts food on many tables and is a major employer all over the country both directly within factories and sales and also through the widespread anciliary industries that it supports. As a growing, globally-important sector, perhaps the country’s ceramic industry leaders could begin putting more pressure on the Indian government to ensure that the benefits of the innovation and excellence shown by these manufacturers, and the resultant hard-earned tax dollars so happily collected by the regional and federal agencies, could be more usefully distributed in the support and welfare of the nation’s workforce, than chasing dreams of interstellar exploration? One can only hope…