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Dhaka Tribune

Prospective leather industry faces hurdles

Update : 18 May 2014, 06:39 PM

Shortage of skilled workforce, absence of integrated policy and lack of environment-friendly technologies are the major obstacles to further growth of the leather industries in Bangladesh.

Speakers came up with the observation yesterday at a seminar styled “Environment-friendly Leather Industries in Bangladesh: A Roadmap to Competitiveness and Sustainability,’’ which was jointly organised by Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) and RMM Leather Industries Limited at a city hotel.

Addressing the seminar, the speakers opined that Bangladesh had the brightest prospect to grab the global leather market worth US$110bn, taking the stock of rising wages in China. Many Chinese leather entrepreneurs were looking for relocating their industries in Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia, Pakistan, India and Myanmar.

Leather industry could be the second largest foreign exchange earner for the country after RMG, said Md Saiful Islam, managing director of Picard Bangladesh Ltd.

“But we need to address some barriers, including absence of environment-friendly leather industries, lack of skilled workforces, difficulties in having access to finance and the problems in getting bank loans for setting up the Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP),” he said.

“Global chain is aggressively pursuing footwear sourcing opportunities with local factories and Bangladesh can take this opportunity as it is competitive because of its raw materials and workforces.”

Managing director of RMM Leather Industries Aniruddah Kumar Roy noted that if Bangladesh was able to attract at least 10% of the existing market of Chinese leather and leather goods, the country’s export earnings from this sector would jump to $16bn from the existing $1bn within a short period of time. 

Countries like Italy, China, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand export leathers goods by importing raw materials from Bangladesh, but just for the lack of CETP, Bangladesh fails to take the opportunity to grab the global market, he added.     

Among others, the seminar was addressed by Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed, Environment and Forest Minister Anwar Hossain Manju, barrister Fazle Noor Taposh MP, senior commerce secretary Mahbub Ahmed, EPB vice-chairman Shubashish Bose and FBCCI first vice president Monwara Hakim Ali.

Tofail Ahmed said Bangladeshi leather and leather goods have very good prospects in the far-eastern countries, including Japan, South Korea and China.

 “Bangladesh might grab the market of the far eastern countries if the leather sector practices hygienic standard and maintains compliance issues,” said Tofail.

Japan might turn into the biggest market hub for Bangladesh’s leather goods and this issue might come up for discussion during the Prime Minister’s upcoming Japan visit, he added.

“The days are not far away when the country’s export earnings will hit $50bn, of which $30bn earnings will come only from the country’s second largest readymade garment sector. If the political stability remains as usual in the country, Bangladesh will be able to make further progress,” said Tofail.

Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu said water of the Buriganga River was polluted mainly due to the wastage of leather industries.

After the Rana Plaza tragedy, the foreign buyers are playing with Bangladesh’s RMG sector in the name of compliance and labour rights issue, reminded Amu.

“The government is now working to develop the country’s leather industry maintaining all the compliance issues and international standards so the foreign buyers could not raise their voices over the issues of compliance and labour rights in the leather sector. The construction work of the CETP at Savar Leather Industrial Estate is going on in full swing,’’ Amu added.

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