Apparel industry of Bangladesh is going through many challenges. In the last four years, apparel product price declined by 1.61% in the international market, though the production cost increased by more than 29%. Workers wage has been increased already and gas price is just on the way to increase.
In this tough situation Dr. Rubana Huq, Managing Director of Mohammadi Group, took the responsibility as President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), the largest trade association in Bangladesh.
BGMEA is representing the country’s readymade garment industry particularly the woven garments, knitwear and sweater sub-sectors with equal importance.
Recently Rubana Huq has given an interview with Textile Today where she opened up some challenges and ways to come out from the challenges.
Textile Today: What are the challenges facing the readymade garment industry?
Rubana Huq: Readymade garment industry is passing a hard time with many challenges. Image deficit, the downward trend of price, lack of Research & Development, inefficiency, wastage, lack of planning- all add up to the basket of challenges.
Textile Today: Though gas price hike takes a pause for six months, soon the price will be increased. We don’t observe any strong protest against it from BGMEA. How will the garments manufacturers survive if gas price hikes such way government declared, as already production cost has increased a lot?
Rubana Huq: We have protested. We sent a letter to the Prime Minister’s Energy Adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury describing the crisis we are facing. And we requested not to apply an increased gas price to the apparel sector considering its contribution to the total economy.
Textile Today: According to a report of NBR, in last four years apparel product price is declined by 1.61%, what are you doing to ensure a better price from the buyers?
Rubana Huq: We are trying to engage our members to raise awareness about how to concentrate more on value addition, on product diversification and on better negotiation.
We are also trying to get a weekly update from NBR so that we can check trends of products and value/volume so that we can give direction to manufacturers
Textile Today: Bangladesh RMG sectors are having higher wastage in production with less efficiency of workers in an average 40%, without improving these two key areas demanding more price from the buyers-will it be viable?
Rubana Huq: Efficiency and waste control are primary elements for optimized output. Without these two, nothing will help much.
Textile Today: How do you see the future of the Bangladesh apparel industry?
Rubana Huq: Future will not be sustained unless there’s a price correction and unless there’s an upward stream for value addition.
Textile Today: Sometimes Chinese and Indian yarn and fabrics are imported under bond licenses and illegally sold in the domestic market at low prices, which is generating challenges only not for our backward linkage sector but also for the apparel manufacturers. How do you see the matter? What policy should the government take?
Rubana Huq: We have bond facilities under which we import fabric and accessories and we have to take utilization declaration certificate from BGMEA to ensure that these are all utilized. Selling fabric locally is not profitable, as we can easily export finished garment at a better price.
Textile Today: We see some big apparel industries are regular to pay worker’s and other staff’s salary but there are many factories keep pending 2-3 months of salary for their staff-level employees. The staffs are not violent to block the road demanding their salary, though they are in big suffering. What role can BGMEA play in this regard?
Rubana Huq: We regularly monitor factories and we have even groups with industrial police and DMP. If there were such huge irregularities, you would have seen outright violence on the streets.
Textile Today: Scarcity of skilled manpower is a big challenge for the industry. How can the industry improve its existing manpower skills?
Rubana Huq: Skill projects are constantly being introduced to factories. But one must understand that with styles being changed and improvised we are constantly requiring skills to be upgraded.
Thus, full-on skill improvement must be attempted for all grades and gradually we will also need to teach them alternative skills in order to tackle the challenge of the fourth industrial revolution.