Toy imports from China have dropped to less than a half, according to industry estimates, since the government introduced tough quality criteria and mandated certification of compliance by accredited agencies from September 1.
This has hit supply and pushed up retail prices 8-14 per cent, while wholesale prices have risen about 30 per cent, executives said, cautioning that further increases are likely.
Supply is likely to be hit further during the festive season right up to Christmas, Mattel Inc, Future Retail and other retailers said, pointing to the paucity of infrastructure in the country to test imported toys and issue Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) certifications.
“There has been a drop of more than 50 per cent in imports of Chinese toys since the government introduced the norm,” said Manish Kukreja, president of All India Toy Manufacturers Association.
“India imports four-five lakh stock keeping units (SKUs) annually. SKUs are actually varieties of toys. There are only three to four National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL)-accredited laboratories in India which can test 100 -150 SKUs in a week.”
Chinese toys account for an estimated 70 per cent of India’s Rs 5,000-crore toy industry.
India needs a massive upgradation of infrastructure to handle the huge volume of toys, executives said.
“The new import notification insists on conformance to the revised Indian standards and procuring certification only through NABL-accredited labs. However, not only are there thousands of SKUs in the Indian market, but also the testing ecosystem and infrastructure will have to be scaled up to meet the new testing mandates,” said Ishmeet Singh, country manager-India, Mattel Inc. “This will no doubt delay the availability of toys to children in the immediate months of festivals.”
The comprehensive notification issued on September 1 prescribes criteria for physical and mechanical properties, chemical content, flammability, and testing for indoor and outdoor toys for both electrically and mechanically operated ones. The notification by the Director General of Foreign Trade said import of toys would be permitted freely only if the manufacturer abided by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) benchmarks.
Rakesh Biyani, director, Future Retail, said: “The consignments are getting stuck at the customs because of this new restriction norm. We import toys that are safe according to international standards. Now, those toys will have to comply by the Indian standard, which is almost same as the international standard. In the long run, the process will get delayed and availability of toys at our stores will dwindle. If this situation continues, there will be a drop of 50 per cent in toys in November at our stores. The new norm should become effective from April 2018.”
Biyani said that prices have risen up to 14 per cent and may go up further.