With exports not registering any growth in the last 3 ½ years, garment makers from Tirupur are aiming to ship at least a third of their merchandise to markets outside the US and EU. Non-traditional markets (non-US , non-EU ) currently account for only about a fourth of the total garment exports from Tirupur. While the EU accounts for about 50% of the exports from the knitwear town, nearly 26% of the shipments go to the US. 

"Our aim is to increase the share of exports to non-traditional markets from 24% to 35%. Subsequently, the share of EU would come down to around 40%," said A Sakthivel, president , Tirupur Exporters' Association. 

Garment exports from Tirupur are estimated at around Rs 6,100 crore during the first six months of the current fiscal, roughly the same compared to the same period last year. Exports from the knitwear town are hovering in the range of Rs 12,500 crore - 12,700 crore a year for the past three years. Shipments were growing at 15% - 20% a year before the global economic slowdown hit the sector. If exports had continued to grow at the same pace, Tirupur would have hit the Rs 20,000 crore mark in exports by now. 

Asharp rise in production costs in China, the main competitor, has given hopes to the beleaguered garment export sector, which has been faced with ahost of issues including power shortage and volatility in cotton prices. "China has hiked prices as labour and power costs have increased. Buyers are also looking at alternatives (to China )," Sakthivel said. 

The Apparel Exports' Promotion Council (AEPC) has been organising buyer-seller meets across the world to tap opportunities in newer markets. Indian exporters have visited Japan, Russia, Israel, South Africa, Norway, Sweden and Denmark in the past few months. They would be visiting Australia , Colombia and Panama soon. 

"It is not easy to penetrate these markets but there are positive signs," said Sakthivel, who is also the chairman of AEPC. The country's presence in these markets is negligible now, he said. While the government has set a target of $18 billion for apparel exports during the current financial year, AEPC believes they would be able to achieve only $16 billion- $17 billion . "We would be able to achieve our export targets only if we move away from traditional ways and diversify our product mix," added Sakthivel.