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When the Fragrance of Agarbatti Also Tells a Story of India Standing up to the Challenges of China

rebuild agarbatti business

The toys that our children play with are primarily of Chinese make these days. The components for Indian pharma industry also come from China. If anyone counts further, the expression ‘oh God!’ might just get blurted. But wait. That incense stick you offer before the deities too may be of Chinese origin.

All these things are set to change. This is how India is using the challenges thrown by China to course-correct decades of negligence under the administrations before the Modi government. The measures India has adopted to build an indigenous production capacity and market for toys, and pharma products are explained before. Banning Chinese apps on security grounds has also paved the way for Indian apps to dominate the market and set an example for other countries like the US who have now taken similar action against Chinese apps.

Now, let’s look at the instance of how India is using this momentum to rebuild the Agarbatti industry to the advantage of Indian workers who make a living out of it.

The Key Measures

Back in June 2020, the government hiked the import duty on Bamboo imported for making incense sticks. This curbed the import of Bamboo from China and the benefit of it has gone to India’s North-eastern states.

On the other hand, it took measures to help India’s artisans involved in making Agarbattis. Ten clusters under SPURTI are to be set up at a cost of about ₹50 crore to benefit 5,000 Artisans. Two Centres of Excellence including one at Kannauj are being set up to develop machine making and promote product innovations. As against 200 earlier, 400 Automatic Agarbatti making machines will be provided. There will be constant support to the artisans through training, raw material, marketing and financial support.

What Had Led to the Debacle of Indian Agarbatti Market?

As this report in The Economic Times noted, it was in 2011 that the import duty on Bamboo was reduced from 30% to 10%. According to Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), it led to the shutting down of 25% of units involved in the making of Agarbatti in India. The import of raw Agarbatti increased from just 2% in 2009 to 80% in 2019. In monetary terms, the import of raw Agarbatti in India increased exponentially from ₹31 crore in 2009 to ₹546 crore in 2019.

Now, the Modi government with recent measures has made a great course-correction. It increased the import duty on raw products of Agarbattis, thus helping Indian artisans to once again regain the market.


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