Australia's embargo on air freight from Bangladesh is hurting business activity, sector leaders said yesterday.
“We are very worried about our future business with Australia,” said Mohammed Nasir, vice-president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
Australia banned air cargo from Bangladesh, Syria, Egypt, Yemen and Somalia as a preventive security measure from December 19. The embargo, which bans anything heavier than 500g, will remain in force until further notice.
The restrictions apply equally to cargo carried on passenger and freight aircraft, Australia's Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development said on December 3.
“We met the top Australian garment sourcing companies in Dhaka on Tuesday to express concerns as there is a risk of losing significant business if the ban continues for long,” Nasir said.
BGMEA leaders sat with Australian retailer Kmart, and two other clothing companies Woolworths and Target that have outlets in Australia.
Members of the BGMEA have forged good business relations with the Australian retailers and have to send export samples regularly, Nasir said.
There is no problem in sending cargo by ship, but sending samples by air has become an issue for exporters. Bangladesh uses the seaways to send most of the consignments to Australia.
“We are in touch with the Australian High Commission in Dhaka, the foreign and commerce ministries of Bangladesh and the Australian retailers in Dhaka pushing for the removal of the ban,” Nasir said.
“We are trying to arrange a meeting with the Australian High Commission in Dhaka next week to express our concerns and resolve the problem as soon as possible.”
Last fiscal year, Bangladesh exported products worth $606.88 million to Australia, with apparel items accounting for 88 percent of the total, according to the Export Promotion Bureau.
At present, Bangladeshi garment enjoys zero-duty access to Australia, one of the emerging markets for local exporters.
“We now fear loss of business,” said Hedayetullah Al Mamoon, senior secretary of the commerce ministry.
The foreign affairs ministry has been lobbying with the Australian government, and the commerce ministry has also continued its efforts, according to Mamoon.