“Technical knowledge, ability to identify potential buyers as well as selecting proper destinations for raw materials are the keys for tapping the vast opportunity of global personal protective equipment (PPE) market,” said SM Khaled, managing director of Snowtex - now also a manufacturer of PPE, in an interview with Dhaka Tribune.
What are the prospects of PPE export for Bangladesh?
As the Covid-19 pandemic persists and there is no sign of any significant improvement in the situation, there is huge demand for personal protective equipment (PPE). It will cushion the apparel manufacturers against work order shortage to keep factories in operation.
How can we tap the opportunity of soaring demands for PPE?
Most of us were not used to producing PPE in the past. It is a very technical product. Here, a manufacturer has to ensure quality and maintain World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines in order to attain certification.
Therefore, acquiring technical knowledge, ability to identify potential buyers, as well as selecting proper destinations for raw materials are key to tapping the vast opportunity presented by the global PPE market.
One should learn how to produce PPE and assess whether its raw materials are available in the producing country.
You are making PPE. What is the response from the global buyers?
There are huge prospects of PPE and products. Queries from global buyers have been increasing gradually. We have supplied facial masks worth $2.6 million to a French buyer.
On the other hand, we are working on producing 100,000 pieces of PPE for Marks and Spencer (M&S), which they are providing to several organizations as part of their social activities.
On top of that, a good number of global buyers of PPE have contacted us to know about our capacity, products’ quality and testing facilities.
In two weeks, we will be able to increase contracts with European buyers.
What are the challenges?
Quality control or testing facilities are a big challenge for the manufacturers. Currently in Bangladesh, there are testing facilities for Level-3 goods. For Level-4, we have to depend on other countries; but it is available in countries like China and Germany. If Bangladeshi industrialists took steps toward providing Level-4 testing facilities, it would save time for the manufacturers.
Some fabrics makers have developed antiviral fabrics. What is your comment on it?
It does not matter from which source you buy clothes and raw materials. But this should be certified and qualified for the making of PPE. Imported raw materials cost less than local ones. But local fabrics and raw materials reduce lead time and save foreign currency.
It is a matter of pride for us that two fabrics manufacturers have developed antiviral woven and knit fabrics, which can kill viruses like Covid-19.