Exports up 40% in first 8 months of fiscal year
As commuters across the world prioritise social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic, many people are opting to use bicycles instead of public transport.
This trend has been favourable to Bangladesh, as bicycle exports have been steadily riding uphill amid the pandemic while the export of many other products has been on the decline.
Bangladesh exported bicycles worth $84 million against a target of $85 million in the 2018-19 fiscal year, according to data by the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB).
In fiscal 2019-20, exports were $82.6 million against a target of $100 million.
However, in the first eight month of fiscal 2020-21, Bangladesh has already earned $84.58 million from bicycle exports -- a 40 per cent year-on-year growth.
“The sector is doing well in exports. It is difficult to determine the total amount of bicycles exported by different companies. However, our organisation is also experiencing positive growth,” said Md Luthful Bari, director of operations of Meghna Group, a major bicycle exporter in the country.
Back in 2017, Bangladesh became the third-largest exporter of bicycles to the UK and the EU, according to data published by Eurostat.
And recently, the use of bicycles has gone further up in Europe due to the rising severity of coronavirus in the region, said exporters.
At present, eight companies in the country export bicycles, two of which are in the Chittagong Export Processing Zone (CEPZ). Besides, there are bicycle manufacturing companies in Dhaka, Gazipur, and Sylhet.
Malaysian company Alita (BD) pioneered bicycle exports in Chittagong back in 1995 with the export of 37,000 bicycles to the UK.
In the last five years, more than 8 lakh bicycles were exported by Alita (BD), said its General Manager AHM Ferdous.
Initially, there were about 150 workers, but now there are 400 workers. Since its inception, the company has exported about 25 lakh bicycles to EU countries.
Mostly mountain bikes, city bikes, and BMS bikes are exported to these countries. These bikes range in price from $60 to $160 per unit.
About 30 to 40 per cent of the raw materials for making these bicycles come from China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam, Ferdous added.
“Our bicycles are becoming more available in EU countries. The bikes we make also have destinations in England, Poland, and Spain. Exports are increasing every year. Although this was the first export-oriented factory in Chittagong, now various companies are also manufacturing bicycles for export in Dhaka,” Ferdous said.
"We have plans to make more high-quality bikes as well as electric bikes in the future," he added.
At the Alita (BD) factory in CEPZ, bicycles are manufactured from scratch. In the beginning, 5,000 mm iron sheets bought as raw material are cut according to the size of the bicycle. Then the sheets are treated for longevity.
The treated frames are then painted in different colours and various stickers are attached to them. Bicycle chains, rings, and tires of different sizes are then packaged separately for each unit.
About 500 to 600 bicycles are produced at the factory every day, said Debashish Chowdhury, a supervisor in the factory who has been working there since 1995.