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Dhaka Tribune

Ekti Graam, Ekti Ponyo: What does the Commerce Ministry aim for?

  • An effort to help expand export volume.
  • Will focus on popular and specific products
Update : 10 Feb 2024, 10:39 AM

The Commerce Ministry has recently launched a program called “Ekti Graam, Ekti Ponyo” (One Village, One Product), sparking enthusiasm.

It has been learned that multiple wings of the ministry are working on the program in an effort to help expand export volume. For that purpose, they are also considering the marketing and showcasing of products.

Meanwhile, stakeholders believe the program, if implemented properly, will significantly help create employment while promoting women’s emancipation, as a large number of rural women are involved in handicrafts.

Those involved with the program will focus on popular and specific products of an upazila or district, according to sources.

This region-centric initiative has been planned to boost industrialization based on raw materials found only in certain areas—a new concept in the country.

While inaugurating the month-long 28th Dhaka International Trade Fair-2024 on January 21, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared handicrafts as The Product of The Year for 2024, as they will contribute significantly to women's empowerment, employment, and self-reliance.

She also emphasized the search for new markets and products for the export basket to reduce dependency on a handful of destinations.

“For that, we need to look for new products, new destinations, and markets abroad. We should not be dependent on one or two markets worldwide,” she said, highlighting the products manufactured at the grassroots level.

Looking back

Although the Ekti Graam, Ekti Ponyo program was first included in the Industrial Policy-2016, it was not given importance in any previous industrial policies.

But now, the Export Wing of the Commerce Ministry and the Export Promotion Bureau are designing a work plan for the program.

A wide range of products—most of them with unique features—are manufactured across the country.

Nevertheless, goods manufactured in rural areas are largely unfamiliar, and they are not well-marketed either. Consequently, entrepreneurs fail to receive fair prices for their products.

Stakeholders think the situation may change greatly if entrepreneurs are granted government sponsorship. And only then can the products be marketed abroad. The Commerce Ministry is working with this in mind.

How will it work?

The ministry will ensure there is no shortage of raw materials in a given area and that the process of using them in industrial units becomes easier.

At the same time, the ministry will keep an eye on creating employment while facilitating the marketing of products.

For instance, a village under Swarupkathi Upazila of Pirojpur is known as a “village of cricket bats”. Hundreds of locals earn their living by manufacturing bats there. But since the Covid-19 pandemic, their income has shrunk drastically due to a fall in sales and prices of bats, a crisis of raw materials, and less interest from workers.

A large number of entrepreneurs in Jamalpur, Bogra, Faridpur, Narsingdi, Barisal, Natore, and Jessore faced a similar fate.

Entrepreneurs’ take

Sudhananda Halder, a bat producer in Binna, the village of Swarupkathi, said their production plummeted owing to less interest in sports among the young generation.

“Instead, they are addicted to mobile phones for entertainment,” he said.

Higher prices and a supply crunch of the raw materials needed are another major reason for the production debacle, Sudhananda lamented.

He regretted not getting government sponsorship, saying: “I demand that the government take special measures for us.”

Jamalpur resident Shefali Begum, who sews Nakshi Kantha (embroidered quilt), said they cannot make much profit because of slack marketing of their products.

But she is optimistic about even exporting if given government assistance.

High-level body on the cards

Sources at the ministry said a highly-placed committee is being considered for the program.

Some other ministries and divisions will be incorporated into the committee.

Moreover, the Commerce Ministry wants to involve the field administration in this regard.

Separate committees will also be formed at the upazila and district levels, where public representatives and noted personalities will also be engaged.

The main activities of the program will start in March if the committees are formed by this month.

When contacted, State Minister for Commerce Ahsanul Islam Titu, confirming their plan, said: “Many products are made from a blend of jute and plastic in many countries. We will also have to manufacture this kind of product using technology.”

He went on to say: “Under the Ekti Graam, Ekti Ponyo program, fairs will be organized at upazilas, districts, and finally in the capital.

Pledging that the entrepreneurs involved will be assisted through the SME Foundation and the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industry, he said: “If properly promoted, the products will not only meet local demand but also earn more foreign currency.

“And, we’re heading for that,” he concluded.

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