The Bangladesh government considers permitting readymade garment (RMG) factories to be open so that the main export-earning sector can continue production in the pick season.
On 15 June, after an emergency meeting, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi spoke about the plan amidst worries among RMG owners that export will suffer seriously if they have to stop operations in the 14-day lockdown starting from July 23.
The meeting was held at the Gulshan office of BGMEA.
Leading trade bodies of textile and garment manufacturers, and exporters – BGMEA, BTMA, BGAPMEA, BKMEA – demanded the government keep factories open during the post-Eid lockdown, otherwise they would suffer a great loss.
Munshi said he had been facing a lot of pressure from the business communities, especially from RMG owners, to keep the factories open.
“I will have a meeting with the government high-ups and expert committee very soon to find ways to keep the factories running during the lockdown,” Munshi added.
He said, RMG production interruption of lockdown and Eid holidays for nearly three weeks is a long time, and the period may be reduced after discussion with the government high-ups.
He added, “We are also thinking about some alternatives now so that both lives and livelihoods are protected during the pandemic time.”
Apparel owners said the July-August period is the prime season for apparel manufacturers since sales rise at that time in the western market for winter and Christmas. Of the total apparel items shipped from Bangladesh, 40 percent are exported during these two months.
“An opportunity has also been created for garment businesses, as a lot of work orders have been coming to Bangladesh even during the pandemic. We should grab this opportunity while catering to the work orders on time.”
A senior official of the commerce ministry said the government is also considering allowing factories that process edible oil, sugar and essential commodities to run, to the keep supply chain of essentials and prices intact.
Post-meeting, Faruque Hassan, President of BGMEA, said they will send a letter to the cabinet secretary to place their demands to keep factories running during the lockdown.
“We will face a severe crisis if factories are closed down during the lockdown,” said Hassan after almost a four-hour-long meeting in this regard.
“We want the factories to run as the production is still going on during this time.”
The BGMEA in a statement said it will also hold a meeting with the cabinet secretary, demanding the factories be allowed to run during the lockdown. They will also send a letter to the FBCCI in favor of its demand.
“Many of us have already shipped our goods and assured our buyers of sending goods timely,” said Mohammad Ali Khokon, President of BTMA.
If the factories cannot run, the garment suppliers will have to face expensive air shipments, for which many will be affected, said Shahadat Hossain Sohel, Chairman Bangladesh Terry Towel and Linen Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
Local garment suppliers have been sending goods at $4.30 per kg from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport to London.
The rates will go even higher if international retailers and brands want to get their goods within a set time, he said.
“No factory owner is capable of bearing the cost of expensive airfares during a pandemic, which had already badly affected the global supply chain.”
Abdul Kader Khan, President of Bangladesh Garment Accessories and Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said if the garment factories are not kept open, the accessories business will also not be able to run during the pandemic, as the accessories are the backward linkage industry for the garment sector.
The meeting was also attended by Md Jashim Uddin, President of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, AKM Salim Osman, President of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, former Presidents of BGMEA and leaders of terry towel and garment accessories sectors.