Slate industry in doldrums

Published Sep 11, 2014, 11:15 am IST
Updated Mar 31, 2019, 5:32 am IST
slate exports have been affected due to decline in demand in the international market
Stone slate obtained from mines in Markapuram. (Photo: DC)
 Stone slate obtained from mines in Markapuram. (Photo: DC)
Ongole: The famous Markapuram decorative slate exports have been affected due to decline in demand in the international market. The price is high because of increased cost of production but the quality has fallen. Decorative slates are used for flooring and front alleviation of buildings. 
Earlier, traders had exported decorative slates to China, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and European countries. Due to the high price, 90 per cent of exports had fallen during the past five years. 
The cost of Markapuram decorative slates is more than compared to those of other countries, which has led to a fall in exports gradually. 
Increase in cost of production has been due to increase in wages, electricity charges and other expenses, including transport and maintenance cost of slate units. The situation is forcing traders to close down units. 
Due to power cuts, slate industry owners have to pay wages for a full day for half-a-day’s work. If they do not pay wage for a full day, it is difficult to get workers to survive. They go to quarries for work where they get Rs 400 per day. Slate industry workers demand the same wage. It is difficult for the owners to pay wages on par with quarry owners. 
Slate industry owners are not in a position to purchase power at higher price like spinning mills. If they use generators, the cost of production will increase. 
In such circumstances, slate industry owners, are switching over to other business. As a result only 60 units out of 300 are functioning in Markakapura, Donakonda, Konakalamitta and Turapadu mandals of Prakasam district. Some more units are on the verge of closer. Some of the owners are not in a position to repay bank loans due to fall in revenue. 
Allapalli Satyanarayana slate industry owners’ association former president said, “Earlier, I had exported decorative slates to USA, Canada, Singapore and other countries. Due to increase in cost of production, Markapuram decorative slates are not in a position to compete in the international market. House owners in China are using black granite for alleviation and flooring.” 
During the last four years over 100 units were closed down due to losses. Due to the high cost people no longer prefer decorative slates. The government is collecting 14 per cent royalty for quarrying the stone for decorative slates. This is also one of the reasons for falling demand. 
Earlier, the country earned Rs 200 crore in foreign exchange through decorative slate exports. Fall in exports and increase in cost of production has plunged the industry into severe crisis since 2007. 
Design slate industries owners’ association secretary Immadi Kasinath said, “Earlier, we sold 20 lorries in stock every day. It is difficult to sell two lorries a day now. We are down to 20 per cent of the business. At present workers in quarries and units do single shift instead of three shifts. There is need to give concessions to the slate industry and need to reduce royalty on quarrying the stone for decorative slate.”
India’s famous Markapu-ram stone slate is disappearing due to lack of demand in the market. 
Parents of the primary schoolchildren are buying unbreakable slates instead of stone slates. As a result, the demand for Markapuram stone slate decreased. Earlier, the primary schools student used six to eight slates on an average. Now they are using two to three unbreakable slates which led to fall in demand for Markapuram stone slate. Once upon a time, slates were supplied across the country in primary schools. The stone slate was obtained from mines in Markapuram spreading over 1,300 acres. About 30,000 workers were engaged in these units. Now these workers are going for quarry works. 
“The slate industry owners are not in a position to pay wages on par with quarry owners. So, the worker refuse to work for slate industry. Some of them are going for NREGS works, a slate industry owner A.S.Narayana said.


Location: Andhra Pradesh