In an interview with Dhaka Tribune’s Johura Akter, the Bangladesh Ceramic Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BCMEA) General Secretary Irfan Uddin has talked about the present situation and prospect of the local ceramic industry as well as challenges facing the sector.
Irfan Uddin is also director of Farr Ceramics Ltd, one of ceramic companies, which won Government Export Gold Trophy for the fourth time.
What is the current condition of this sector?
Bangladesh was once totally import-dependent for the high-end ceramic products. Over the years, because of increasing demand in the developing sector, ceramic industry has grown into a booming sector and now about 66 industries are manufacturing ceramic products and almost every ceramic items are being manufactured in our country. After its journey in 1958, this sector has flourished tremendously and in last ten years the total ceramic industry’s production growth rose by almost 200%.
What are the challenges?
Ceramic industry is totally dependent on gas and electricity power. To ensure uninterrupted electricity, maximum industries has their own power plant. But the only and major challenge for this sector is scarcity of gas. Usually the factories are situated in the different parts of Bangladesh. Because of inadequate gas supply, production has been hampered a lot, taking a toll on the quality of products..
Tell us about the prospects
Because of development projects in our country, the use of and demand for ceramic products have increased to a great extent. Not only the urban areas but the rural areas have also witnessed increased construction activities. Nowadays we see high-rises outside the cities. The development process has just started. If the trend continues for next ten years, the future of the ceramic industry will reach a new height.
As Bangladesh has made tremendous advances in this sector and many foreign companies are investing in local companies, the future of the sector is bright. The government is also backing the sector. Now Bangladesh earns yearly about 46 million US dollar through export of ceramic products.
What sort of policy support do you need?
There are some raw materials which are used in other industries but when ceramic manufacturers import the same materials, they have to pay more custom duty. If the government decreases custom duty on imports of their raw materials through Import Registration Certificate IRC, it will be a great help. The government is imposing supplementary duty on imported products for the sake of local industries. We hope that the government will continue it.
Status of workers' rights in the sector
Though ceramic sector is labour-intensive, we do not have enough skilled workers. According to ILO policies, there is Industry Skill Council to develop the skills of the workers. As like other industries we have also Ceramic Industry Skill Council where we train up our workers. This is a non-profit organization and in the last two years we trained 1,200 workers.
What is your advice for new entrepreneurs?
Actually, those who are investing in this sector are really large companies and it is also capital-intensive sector. So when new company will come in this sector, they must keep in mind that there is no compromise with technology investment. They need to buy the latest technology for their factories. I suggest them that they prefer European technology instead of Chinese one.