THE local footwear industry is now worth Tk.7,000 crore per annum. What we are witnessing is nothing short of extraordinary, where small entrepreneurs are churning out good quality footwear which is competing with foreign brands in chic areas of the capital city and servicing the countrywide demand. We are witnessing local industry specialising in other products making investments in leather as the demand for footwear continues to post healthy growth. Besides already established brands, new entrants are taking on foreign import of footwear, traditionally Chinese imports, to take a bite out of the massive sales before Eid festivities.
It is interesting to see new entrants into this sector expanding sales centres in urban centres at a very rapid pace. As quality improves, consumers are taking an interest in locally produced footwear. The leather industry has been recognised as a potential export thrust sector in the current budget. However, before Bangladesh can take advantage of export markets, a lot needs to be done to cater to the small entrepreneurs who make up the bulk of the industry. In many ways, leather industry, particularly footwear, remains a cottage industry. And they face the problems associated with access to credit and design facilities. That many of these factories are scattered all over the country also is not conducive to business. Hence, it only stands to reason that the relocation of the tannery industry to Savar be expedited at the earliest to take advantage of opportunities that exist both domestically and internationally.