Production in over 350 garment factories in Gazipur, Ashulia, Savar and Kashimpur has been severely hampered due to a gas crisis in the last one month or so, exporters said.
This is causing the factories to incur losses every day while manufacturers are forced to depend on expensive air shipments to maintain strict lead-times set by international clothing retailers and brands.
Some 60 percent of the country's garment factories are located in the Gazipur, Ashulia, Savar, Kashimpur, Dhaka, Mirpur, Uttara, Tongi and Konabari areas.
Very often the factory owners complain of an inadequate gas supply. The current crisis arose after two wells of Shahjibazar Gas Field in Brahmanbaria were damaged.
“Even a few days ago we have discussed the gas crisis issue with the government high-ups,” said Siddiqur Rahman, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) on Friday.
“They assured us that they will normalise the gas supply to this industrial belt as soon as possible, but it is not resolved yet,” he said.
Rahman hurriedly called a press conference to inform about the latest situation in the garment sector and also about the inspection and remediation activities as both Accord and Alliance have already decided to quit the country in their stipulated timeframe of May next year.
At the press conference, the BGMEA chief also said although the number of trucks travelling to and from Chittagong port has been increasing 17-18 percent year-on-year, the premier port's capacity remained almost the same over the last 40 years.
For example, the number of jetties was supposed to increase to 60 till date, there are seven jetties, he said. As a result, mismanagement in cargo handling remains a perennial problem.
The exporters and importers are falling behind in lead time by 10 to 15 days compared to other competitor countries, Rahman said reading out a written speech.
He also complained about the current power supply situation.
Although electricity production capacity increased to 15,600 megawatts (MW) now from 4,942MW in 2009, many parts of the country still face outages, even for three to four hours a day.
He said, although the Chittagong port has been functioning round-the-clock, transportation problem still persists.
Exporters have to wait for long to receive apparel samples sent by buyers at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka due to delays in providing services by airport officials, Rahman said.
He also said the exporters, especially in case of garment shipments, have to face space constraints at the airport's cargo village. As a result, many important cargos have to be left out in the open.
Rahman said severe traffic congestion in and around Dhaka has turned into another cause for concern for the garment sector as it eats up valuable working hours of garment workers and officials.
On compliance and safety issues in garment factories, he said Bangladesh was proud to have 67 green apparel units and another 268 were waiting to start operations.
He said the first meeting of a Remediation Coordination Cell on how to take over responsibilities of Accord would be held within November 1.
Accord, the European garment factory building inspection and remediation agency sponsored by over 200 brands, mostly European, is scheduled to leave the country by May 31 next year.
It made the announcement on Thursday on failing to get government approval despite lobbying for over a year to extend its stay until 2021 to ensure that its goals were fully met.
Alliance, a platform of 17 North American retailers, has already informed the government that it would leave Bangladesh by May next year.