Omicron scare casts shadow over eastern UP saree business
Traders of the eastern UP say that with many southern states cancelling their orders after Omicron scare there has been a dip in saree production by around 30%
The detection of highly contagious new variant of Crononavirus-- Omicron-- in Karnataka has started to show cascading effect on saree trade in eastern Uttar Pradesh, including Varanasi, with many southern states cancelling their orders leading to a dip in production by around 30%, say traders of the region.
“A variety of sarees, including semi silk and silk, are weaved in Varanasi and adjoining areas like Mau in eastern UP. The wholesalers and retailers from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra buy sarees from us and sell them in their local markets,” says Mau-based saree trader Mushtaq Ahmad.
But with Karnataka reporting two cases of Omicron, many southern states like Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana have cancelled 25% of their orders fearing lockdown.
“This has made the situation very difficult for saree traders in UP who had already faced a lot of hardship during the first and second waves of the pandemic,” he said.
“The situation started looking up since July 2021 and traders were hoping for a better scenario. In September, Mau and Varanasi based manufacturers started receiving orders for Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Telangana where these sarees are well-liked for their designs. The festive and marriage seasons came as a little boost for the entire saree business. But with this new threat, the scene is once again looking bleak,” said Mushtaq.
As per the trader, over two dozen silk saree wholesalers from Maharashtra and Karnataka were to visit Mau and Varanasi for placing new orders. But all of them have cancelled their trips. “As a result, we have decreased our production by up to 30%,” he added.
Another Mau trader Zail Ali said: “What is the use of making more sarees, when the wholesalers have started cancelling the orders.”
Babu Bhai, a Varanasi-based master weaver and saree manufacturer said: “I have heard about the threat of the new corona variant. Many wholesalers, who buy sarees from us, have cancelled their orders fearing that market may see a steep fall in buyers in case Omicron spreads its tentacle. The production has been decreased by 25%.”
The adverse effect of this is not just limited to the sellers but weavers too are affected.
“The cancellation of orders from wholesalers will have a direct impact on the livelihood of weavers of sarees, who work on powerlooms on a daily wage basis. With drying up of orders, powerlooms may have to shut their shops rendering these weavers out of job,” said Saif Ansari, a Varanasi-based trader.
The saree industry, including Banarsi sarees and silk products’, has an annual business between ₹3000 crore and ₹5000 crore. Varanasi region’s saree business generates employment for over 3 lakh people, including 2.5 lakh weavers.