The rawhide traders apprehend that the tannery closures will shrink their bargaining capacity and pave way for a monopoly of Dhaka-based tanners.
The tanners said a huge stock of 8 million square feet of wet-blue – or chrome-tanned leather – was getting damaged in the two Chittagong tanneries after production was halted.
Meanwhile, a sizeable stock of 10,000-15,000 salted rawhides kept in different rawhide warehouses were also yet to be sold out.
“We are gravely concerned as the tanneries have been shut down. The two tanneries of Chittagong used to purchase 50% rawhide from us in cash. We have to sell rest of the amount of rawhide to the tanners of Dhaka on credit. Moreover, the tanners of Dhaka always delay in paying off the money,” said Muslim Uddin, former president of Chittagong Rawhide Traders Association.
The rawhide traders said they collected around 550,000 rawhides during last Eid-ul-Azha. They added that 800-10,000 buffalo and cowhides and 2,500-3,000 goat hides were also collected from Chittagong every day.
At present, each square foot of unsalted cowhide sells at Tk40-45. The price of buffalo hide ranges from Tk35-40 per square foot while goat hide is sold for Tk14-24.
“A 74kg sack of salt used to cost Tk400-450 last year. However, the price has now shot up to Tk1,200-1,300. We have to count an additional Tk10 for salting a square foot of rawhide due to the salt price hike,” said Sekander Mia, president of Chittagong Rawhide Traders Association,
“We are already hit hard as the demand for leather, leather goods and footwear has gone down in the global market. We will be ruined if the government does not take step to immediately open up the two tanneries of Chittagong,” said the leader of the rawhide traders.
“There was a time when the tanneries of Chittagong were much ahead of others in the country. Regrettably the two surviving tanneries of Chittagong are now victims of discrimination. We urge the government to take our crisis into consideration,” Madina Tannery proprietor Abu Mohammad said, adding that around 3 million square feet of wet-blue stock was perishing in his enterprise.
Mokhlesur Rahman, director (operations and sale) of another shut-down tannery Riff Leather Ltd, said they were now constructing an effluent treatment plant (ETP).
“The construction of the treatment plant is going to be complete within three months. Around 3 million square feet of wet-blue stock is getting damaged in the tannery.”
According to the tanners, there was once a total 21 tanneries in Chittagong, but only Madina Tannery and Riff Leather Ltd managed to survive.
But the Department of Environment (DoE) sealed them off and ordered the tanneries to stop production until installing ETPs.
Production in Madina Tannery and Riff Leather Ltd has remained suspended from June 17 last year and August 1 of this year respectively.
Azadur Rahman Mollick, DoE director for Chittagong metropolitan area, told the Dhaka Tribune that there was no bar to reopening the two tanneries of Chittagong provided they set up ETPs.