Traders are worried whether sales would meet their expectations at the Dhaka International Trade Fair as fear of political violence is keeping potential buyers at bay.
"It seems sales would not be good this year as turnout is very thin. So far the sales are not good," said Mosharraf Hossain, who was selling veils at an Iranian pavilion at the fair venue at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar in the capital.
Blockades and shutdowns enforced by the opposition parties have already taken a toll on the preparation in the run-up to the country's largest trade fair, which brings producers from rural, national and international levels on a single platform.
The 19th edition of the annual event began on Saturday amid sparse crowds and lukewarm enthusiasm from stall and pavilion owners.
On the opening day, nearly 40 percent of 471 stalls and pavilions could not complete their preparation on time.
Yesterday 135 stalls and pavilions were found to be unprepared to begin selling any time soon.
MA Wahab Raju, a jewellery trader, said the sales this time would not match last year's figure.
The graduate from Dhaka University takes part in fairs across the country to sell stones, silver and pearls jewellery items as his showroom in Joydevpur does not attract enough customers.
On the opening day last year, Raju sold products worth Tk 15,000, but he declined to give Saturday's sales figure, citing it was very small.
Traders from India, China, Pakistan, Malaysia, the UAE, Singapore, Thailand, the US and Turkey are taking part in the fair, according to Export Promotion Bureau, which has co-organised the exhibition in association with the commerce ministry.
In a pavilion named Iranian Products Collection, kitchenware of KIAM brand was seen selling. The pavilion is also housing veils imported from Iran by the KIAM owner.
Bishal Textiles is selling its locally made three pieces for ladies and girls at one part of the pavilion named Thai Gallery Stores. Meghla Fabrics is selling its ladies garments in the other part.
A Thai trader was found in another pavilion, selling jewellery brought from Thailand.
"Hopefully, the sales will be good," said Jane, who is attending the fair for the third time.
Some manufacturers and traders hope they would be able to reach the targets.
Satranji, a concern of Karupannya Rangpur Ltd, a local producer of mattress, has invested a lot to set up a large store. Ashequr Rahman Rumel, in-charge of the pavilion, said although the sales were low on the first day it might go up in the coming days.
Not all producers are aiming for sales or profits, and Hussain Tyre and Tube is one of them.
"Our target is to promote the brand among foreign visitors. We think the fair enables local producers to establish network with international companies," said Mahmudul Hasan, a market development officer of the company.
Among items, machinery, carpets, cosmetics and beauty products, electronics, jute, leather and sports goods, sanitary products, toys, ceramics, fabrics, processed foods, furniture and handicrafts are being sold in the fair. Some private and state-run commercial banks have also set up stalls to market and sell their latest products.
But the crowd was seen mainly at the stalls selling kitchenware and jewellery.
RFL Group, which has set up a two-storied pavilion for selling plastic kitchenware and furniture, saw the most crowds.
"The sales are good despite all difficulties," said Mohammad Saifullah, a manager of RFL Group, adding that the company is using the fair to launch some new models in furniture.
He said the company sold products worth Tk 1.24 lakh on the opening day of the fair last year. This time it bagged Tk 1.30 lakh.
However, stalls selling aluminium kitchenware and household items were particularly disappointed.
The prices of aluminium items have gone up due to transport costs, said Mohammad Azimuddin, a sales executive of Delhi Aluminium, which has set up four stalls.
Fikret Cicek, country manager of Istanbul Trading Export and Import Ltd, was not that unenthusiastic despite low presence of visitors.
"The first 10 days of any month-long fair will be dull in terms of sales," he said, sitting in his pavilion which sells carpets from Turkey.
The fair will remain open from 10am to 10pm daily till February 10.
The writers are business reporters, The Daily Star