Bangladesh is losing its once shining global market of Muslim topis (caps) to the cheaper and better-looking Chinese products, leading to continuous slowdown in the topi export.
Already, many a factory has closed down due to sluggish business of the product.
The industry data showed the number of Muslim topi factories has shrunk to only 25 from 180 over the years, resulting in thousands losing their jobs.
President of Bangladesh Cap Manufacturers’ Association Mohammad Faruque Ahmad attributed the slowdown in topi exports to the cheaper production by China.
“The prices of Chinese Muslim topi are half of ours,” he said.
Use of synthetic objects by the Chinese manufacturers in making topis lowers production cost and increases attractiveness while Bangladeshi producers use relatively expensive local fabrics and yarns.
“They [the Chinese producers] use synthetics in topis to make the products cheaper and more attractive, but that sort of topi does not last long,” said Faruque Ahmad.
With the establishment of modern machineries and expansion of factories, Bangladesh can regain its competitiveness on the global market of Muslim topis, said the industry insiders.
They said providing loans at lower rates of interest could also help the industry get back its past glory. Started in the 1980s, the topi industry expanded rapidly.
A good number of small factories were set up at Keraniganj, Kamrangir Char and Jatrabari in the capital.
Then, it gradually turned to a large industry of 180 factories by the year 2000 and began contributing to the country’s export basket.
The topis were being exported to the countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia, South Africa and Lebanon etc.
A number of factory owners told the Dhaka Tribune that they started their business with a capital of Tk50,000-Tk100,000 each.
Until China took over the market share, the Bangladeshi exporters were doing well.
“We still export a volume of 2m tope annually despite many factories being shut down. If we get government’s support, the volume could be increased to 5m,” said President of Cap Manufacturers. He said China currently exports 10m topis every year.
Faruque said Bangladesh earns Tk80m per annum. He thinks the volume could be raised through initiating promotional efforts and thousands of workers will get back their jobs.
A Bangladeshi topi factory generally employs 70-80 people. Due to closing of the factories, over 9,500 people became jobless.
There are some factories supplying only to local market while others are catering to the international buyers.
Faruque said a topi factory worker can earn Tk6,000 per month which is still much better than garment workers in Bangladesh. Workers are paid for each of the products they make, he added.