LAHORE - The Apparel Forum, the real representatives of apparel export sector, has urged the government to provide R&D support to industry across the board instead of benefitting a limited number of companies. The Apparel Forum comprised Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers Association (PHMA), Pakistan Ready made Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA), Pakistan Knitwear and Sweater Exporters Association (PKSEA) and Pakistan Cotton Fashion Apparel Association (PCFAA). Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers Association (PHMA) Central Chairman Shahzad Azam Khan stated this in a press briefing at Lahore Press Club on Saturday. Zonal Chairman Mohammad Javed Aslam, Vice Chairman Syed Hassan Masood Zaidi and PRGMEA ex-chairman Ejaz Khokhar also accompanied him. Though garment industry is gradually drying up due to hike in input costs- raw material, gas and fuel, a few companies are trying to usurp rights of the SMEs, which make 95 percent of the industry, with regards to R&D Support by the government. He said, "The handful companies which constitute not even five percent of the industry and are in no way its representatives, have manipulated in the government with proposals to allow R&D Support on the basis of performance slabs suitable to their interests which the Economic Coordination Council has deferred for the time being. As this sector comprised most of Small and Medium Enterprises, he said, the discriminatory policy would cause agitation, so the SMEs should not be neglected in this regard, rather these deserve comparatively more support for enhancing R&D activities to promote their exports. "Our competitor countries have been providing continuous financial support and subsidies to their industry, so our government should enhance R&D support from six to nine percent," he demanded. He also ruled out the reports about misuse of R&D Support and said the relevant associations were ready for audit of their record to the satisfaction of government. Ready-made garments and knitwear export sector of one million labour force contributes 20 percent in the total export earning of Pakistan, he said and urged the economic managers of the country to take positive and timely measures to save this vibrant industry from collapse. The PHMA Central Chairman said the garment trade in international market demands a long-term planning and pricing for future contracts.