RMG manufacturers fear
The apparel industry of the country will suffer due to the government's decision to keep factories closed for 14 days amid a peak season for export and purchase orders, say ready-made garment (RMG) factory owners.
From July 23, all kinds of industries, including apparel factories, which remained out of the purview of previous lockdowns, will also remain closed. The closure will continue till August 5 to contain the rising rate of Covid-19, said the Cabinet Division in a notification on Tuesday.
But manufacturers say they are receiving a large number of orders for spring and summer clothing from the US and Europe, and factories’ earnings have finally begun to reach pre-pandemic levels.
If the factories are closed for two weeks, they will not be able to supply the products in accordance with the lead time as per the purchase order. Then foreign buyers will cancel the purchase orders or take advantage of the discounts, said apparel manufacturers.
They also said that the garment workers will run to the village with their families if they get two weeks off and come in contact with many people, thus increasing the risk of infections.
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Shahidullah Azim, vice president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), told Dhaka Tribune that June, July and August are the peak season for exporting apparel items — especially winter clothes.
“If the factory is closed for two weeks, the sector will incur a big loss. There will be a large number of order cancellations and discounts because the situation in Europe and America is becoming normal,” he added.
He also said that the sales of clothing brand stores have also increased. As a result, they need a lot of clothes now and they want quick shipment products at any cost.
“We export around 40% of our products in this season and the buyers might even shift their orders for spring and summer seasons to competing countries if we fail to deliver in time,” he also said.
He also urged for a vaccination program for RMG workers, saying that lockdowns cannot be a long-term solution.
Azhar Khan, chairman of LEED Platinum certified Mithela Textile Industries Limited, told Dhaka Tribune that export orders in the garment industry have increased significantly in recent months.
“Some procurement orders have been shifted to Bangladesh due to the military rule in Myanmar and the worsening Covid-19 situation in India. The 14-day lockdown at this moment is a suicidal decision,” he added.
He also said that a shutdown till July 30 would have been more appropriate as it would coincide with the Eid holidays.
“Eid holiday for most of the factories will be till July 27 and they will take two to three more days to resume production in full swing,” he added.
Mostafiz Uddin, managing director of Chittagong-based Denim Expert Limited, said that they have to export goods worth $1 million on July 29 and on August 2, 3 and 5.
“If we cannot open the factory after Eid, then it will be impossible to prepare and export the products,” he added.
He also said that the factories of competitor countries are open and, in this case, if they do not ship the products on time, Bangladesh’s image will be ruined.
The government should reconsider the decision to protect the lifeline of the country's economy, he added.
Officials of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) also said that they are already under pressure due to container and mother vessel crises while shipping winter apparels from July to August.
But they are willing to comply with the government decision of stricter lockdown to reduce the surge of Covid-19 infections. However, the BGMEA said it will be approaching the government to reconsider the decision before it goes into effect.
Zillur Rahman Mridha, managing director of Vintage Denim Studio Limited, said: “We respect the government's decision. In fact, both the business and the people of the country have to be protected. In this case, if the rate of infection can be reduced by closing everything, then the decision of the government should be followed though we will face losses.”
Bangladesh's apparel export has rebounded since April on the back of rising shipments for the winter season, said the BGMEA.
In the fiscal year 2020-21, RMG earned $31.45 billion — fetching a 12.55% growth, according to data by the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB).