Long holidays to derail garment export recovery
Garment shipment will suffer a serious setback if production is suspended in July and August as it is the prime season for apparel manufacturers since sales rise in the Western market because of winter and Christmas, exporters said.
Of the total apparel items shipped from Bangladesh, 40 per cent are exported in July and August.
Exporters are worried about losing business as the government has decided to keep industries closed during the 14-day countrywide lockdown from July 23 to contain the spread of deadly Covid-19.
The garment industry will go on a three-day holiday from July 19 on the occasion of Eid-ul-Azha. However, it will turn into a three-week holiday if factories remain closed until August 5.
"It is a peak time for us to book new work orders and ship the goods for the next winter and Christmas. So, it is not logical to suspend the production of garment factories during this period," said Fazlul Hoque, managing director of Narayanganj-based Plummy Fashions Ltd, a local garment exporter.
The new production suspension plan comes when garment exporters are witnessing a strong recovery.
Western retailers and brands have started reopening their outlets following the vaccination of the majority of the people in Europe and the US.
Suppliers now fear that the orders might shift from Bangladesh to other countries because of the long holidays.
In the last fiscal year, the earnings from the garment export grew 12.55 per cent year-on-year to $31.45 billion, according to data from the Export Promotion Bureau. However, the receipts were $3 billion shy of the level posted before the pandemic.
The woven garment returned to the positive territory towards the end of the fiscal year. Knitwear was performing well.
"We are expecting a boom in work orders for the next year as many buyers are shifting orders to Bangladesh from other countries. If we go for a long holiday and shutdown, we will not be able to attract those orders, which will be very painful for us," Hoque said.
Besides, many factory owners will face difficulties in paying workers in the beginning of next month if they cannot make timely shipments, said the former president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA).
Md Shahidullah Azim, vice-president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said the sector would face a massive loss if the garment factories are kept shut for a long time.
The BGMEA leaders are scheduled to sit in an emergency meeting tomorrow to discuss the issue of lockdown and its impacts on the garment sector.
"We want the garment factories to continue their operation during the lockdown as they are doing now," Azim said.
If the workers are allowed to go for a long holiday, they might even catch the virus, he said, adding that workers are safe in the factories as they follow the health guidelines properly.
Mohammad Hatem, first vice-president of the BKMEA, said garment exporters are recovering from the losses they had incurred over the last one and a half years year.
"We have supplied products at prices that are lower than the production cost with a hope to make a profit in the future. Now is the time to make the profit as many of our suppliers are overbooked with fresh orders."
"We will lose our business aimed at the sales during next winter and Christmas. We will also lose plenty of orders for the next summer if a long lockdown is imposed."