The Dhaka International Trade Fair took off yesterday, 10 days after its scheduled start, with about 40 percent of the stalls and pavilions yet to be completed, mainly due to political turmoil.
However, officials of Export Promotion Bureau that co-organised the month-long exhibition at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar in association with the commerce ministry, said 15-20 percent of the 471 stalls and pavilions have not been completed yet due to various reasons.
But in the evening, it was seen that at least 180 stalls and pavilions were not in a position to begin displaying their products; and by the looks of it, some stalls might take a day or two more to complete preparations.
An EPB official, on condition of anonymity, said some stalls and pavilions could not be allocated, but he could not give a number as to how many. "This is the usual scene at the start of the fair every year. We hope all the stalls and pavilions will be fully ready within a week.”
Some participants blamed blockades and shutdowns for the delay in preparations.
"The political stalemate was the key reason behind the delay as we could not transport the materials needed, furniture and goods in time,” said Sakhawat Hossain, executive member of Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leathergoods and Footwear Exporters' Association.
Alauddin Mia, a carpenter working on a stall with a team of eight, said, “We received the work contract two days ago."
Nearby, a large vacant space set aside for two food courts was also unfinished, unable to serve customers. The EPB information centre was also half-finished inside the pavilion.
The EPB official said organisers were busy preparing for the opening ceremony that was attended by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
In front of the EPB centre, four pavilions were completely vacant. Nazmul Azad, designer of Apex Technology, which will sell imported computer accessories, said his company received the stall allocation on January 8 -- four days ahead of the opening.
Officials of Apollo Electronics blamed the carpenters and decorators for the delay.
Moinul Islam, a senior official of Golden Son Ltd, a Chittagong-based public listed company that sells fans, hot pots, garment accessories and solar bulbs, said they faced a delay as their staff and goods could not reach the venue on time; they will be able to begin sales from tomorrow.
This is the first time the company is taking part in the fair. "More than focusing on sales, we will try to expand our export markets by reaching out to foreign buyers, as we are mostly export oriented.”
Despite being a weekend, there was a thin presence of visitors. Participants explained that this was for participants' safety concerns and a lack of adequate publicity.
"Many were not aware that the fair was beginning on Saturday," said Safayet Ullah, a deputy manager of Akhtar Furnishers, a leading furniture maker. It is offering a 15 percent discount on all its home and office furniture at the fair.
Moinul Islam, a general manager of BRAC Enterprise, said it is still too early to say what the overall response would be like. The company sells dairy products, poultry, silk saris and potted plants.
Jerry Smith, a US national in garment business in Dhaka, came to the fair with three friends and bought 10 small jute rugs for Tk 2,100. One of his friends said the fair was not ready for sales yet and “we all know the reason why.”
According to EPB, businesses from India, China, Pakistan, Malaysia, the UAE, Singapore, Thailand, the US and Turkey, are taking part in the fair, selling a variety of items like machinery, carpets, cosmetics and beauty products, electronics, jute, leather and sports goods, sanitary products, toys, ceramics, fabrics, processed foods, furniture and handicrafts.
The 19th edition of the annual fair will remain open from 10am to 10pm daily till February 10 at an entry fee of Tk 30 for adults and Tk 20 for children.
The fair that takes place over 12.5 lakh square feet of space received orders worth Tk 157 crore last year.