The journey of the all-over printing (AOP) industry started in Bangladesh in 1980. Later the textile industry gradually grew along with the printing industry. In 2016, the All-over printed clothing market size was 0.87 billion sq. meters in volume and the market value was USD 1.29 billion which was forecasted to expand at a CAGR rate of 17.5% to 2021. But the global pandemic since 2019 has complicated everything. Lockdowns, economic crises, layoffs, and order cancellations have disrupted the entire industry supply chain.
Recently, AOPTB (All-Over Printing Technologists of Bangladesh) arranged a webinar to discuss the crisis in all over printing industry “Impact of COVID-19 in All Over Printing Sector and ways to overcome.”
Where Pranab Kumar Dutta, Head of Technical Service at Clarichem Limited; Eng. Shyamal Chandra Saha, BTech (Tex) IIT, Delhi. Advisor at Johny Group; Sayedur Rahman, General Manager (Operation) of Unifill Group; Tareq Amin, Founder and CEO of Textile Today; MD Abul Basar, Vice President, AOPTB Group, DGM Production & Marketing, Sawftex Ltd were the keynote speakers of the webinar and Engr. S.M. Abdur Rahman, President of AOPTB moderated the webinar.
S.M. Abdur started the session by asking Pranab Kumar about the impact of COVID-19 on the AOP industry. The pandemic has led to order cancellations, lockdowns, and stopped multiple export shipments. Large industries like Apex – daily capacity is 70 to 80-meter fabric, Z&Z used to export $16-17 million dollars per month – are now suffering from export loss. Therefore, it is paramount that the AOP sector responds quickly and finds alternative ways.
Pranab Kumar said, “Since export turbulence hit us, some big factories focused on the domestic market.”
Regarding meeting the domestic market demand, Eng. Shyamal said, “Our AOP sector already has an integrated market that meets 80% of domestic demand.”
However, due to the lockdown, the overall printing industry faced extremely harsh conditions. As the main peak season of the domestic market depends on holidays and other events like Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha, Boishak, Durga Puja, etc. During these events, the country was under lockdown to curb COVID cases, which slashed sales. However, online sales kept the sector alive but it was not enough to recover the sector.
With a good amount of stock in their hands, retailers are struggling to come out of it. Besides, the domestic market is in a financial crisis and the market will continue to drop with the current situation.
Sayedur highlighted the COVID-19 challenges faced by the export-oriented industry. He said, “COVID-19 has dramatically increased the price of raw materials which further ballooning the cost of production.”
In addition, the Chattogram port container jam increased average shipment lead-time by 15-30 days.
Abul Basar said, “Raw material prices should be reduced and the government should reduce import duty and shipping costs and the bank should be more lenient about loans now.”
Speakers highlighted that before the recent lockdown – started from 23 July – the AOP sector was doing well with a lot of orders as the exporting countries were recovering from the pandemic.
“This sudden lockdown and delay in shipment raise concerns about the order manufacturers received,” said Tareq Amin.
Any order failure can change buyers’ attitudes about the country’s industry. Even many low-skilled workers had already changed their jobs during the lockdown, so there was a shortage of low-skilled workers when the factories were reopened beginning of the year, he added.
S.M. Abdur asked Tareq Amin about changing consumer behavior in the AOP industry. Tareq Amin said,” AOP industry will always continue to grow as it has become a global fashion trend.”
He also elaborated that, as fast fashion is now a global trend, fashion customers are more and more focusing on trendy printable fashion.
Sayedur said, “Currently, 70% of garments have all over printing capacity.”
However, in parallel with AOP, digital printing is also increasing globally. While screen-printing demand is decreasing.
Sayedur Said, “Buyer’s new designs have multicolor and some designs have 20-25 colors which require digital printing.”
Speakers also discussed that the AOP industry needs technological upgradation soon.
The AOP industry supply depends on the fabric industry, which is seeing significant changes. The demand for knitted fabrics is increasing while the demand for woven fabrics is declining.
S.M. Abdur asked Tareq Amin about the reason for the change in consumer behavior.
“People are moving towards comfort and casualness due to work from home which increases the demand for knit fabric,” said Tareq Amin.
A solution right now instead of lockdown is a vaccine to fight COVID-19. The government has counted only health care officials and other sectors as the first to vaccinate. The garment sector, which contributes more than 80% of total exports, is not considered a priority.
Eng. Shyamal said, “Garment workers and professionals who run the wheel of Bangladesh’s economy should be given priority and vaccinated soon.”
Numerous owners in Gazipur personally vaccinated their workers.
S.M. Abdur on the behalf of AOPTB has demanded the government officials vaccinate the garment workers on a priority basis.
Tareq Amin suggested that organizations like BGMEA, BKMEA, and BTMA should work on long-term sustainable policy guidelines to reduce the impact of the pandemic. The industry is running at a loss only to pay wages. Around 68% of the people who were working in Bangladesh’s urban areas of Dhaka and Chittogram have lost their jobs and many industries have been shut down. Manufacturers also need personal long-term plans for a better return on investment.