Bangladesh is lagging behind its global peers due to lack of investment and adequate government support to set up mills to produce manmade fibres (MMFs), which are gaining popularity worldwide as biodegradable raw material for apparel manufacturing.
The share of MMF-based apparel is around 45 percent in the global trade, which is growing at 5 percent, as such garments are more environment friendly, according to a study of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
On the other hand, the share of global trade of cotton-based apparel is around 35 percent now, which shrunk at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 0.5 percent between 2007 and 2017, the study found.
“It is very expensive to set up an MMF based mill,” said A Matin Chowdhury, managing director of Malek Spinning Mills, a leading spinner.
Chowdhury said he tried to set up an MMF-based mill 10 years ago, when the project cost was estimated at $100 million. “Now it takes between $400 million and $500 million.”
In 2017, the global trade of MMF-based apparel was $150 billion, where Bangladesh’s share was 5 percent compared to Vietnam’s 10 percent share. Bangladesh has 430 spinning mills, of them 124 are based on polyester and viscose staple fibre, the two forms of MMF.
Moreover, around 93.57 percent of the 20.52 lakh tonnes of fibre imported in 2018 was cotton, according to the study.
Bangladesh should go for establishing mills only to produce manmade fibres, as the demand for MMF-based garment items is increasing worldwide, Chowdhury said.
“Otherwise, the country’s $8 billion worth primary textile sector would be in a big trouble soon.”
But setting up such an expensive textile project is not easy for investors without government’s supports in the form of low-cost loan and easy access to gas, according to the entrepreneur.
Bangladesh has business potential in MMF like viscose, acrylic and polyester, he said.
Consumers are more informed and concerned about the environment, people and sustainability, because of which they now look for products, which are easy to care and environment friendly, according to the study.
The rise of Fast Fashion, a term used to describe clothing designs that move quickly from the catwalk to stores to meet new trends, is reducing the lead time of order delivery.
The Fast Fashion category has grown at 20 percent CAGR between 2015 and 2018 whereas global apparel retail grew 4 percent to 5 percent during the same time, the BGMEA study also said.
The fact that fashion consumers on average buy 60 percent more pieces of clothing than 15 years ago, generating up to 92 million tonnes of trash, equivalent to 4 percent of the world’s waste each year, add more havoc to these impacts, according to a recent report of The Jakarta Post, an English daily based in Indonesia.
Viscose, the third-most commonly used fibre in the world, has been hailed as a sustainable alternative to oil-based synthetic textiles such as polyester, acrylic, nylon and spandex.
Introduced in the late 1800s as an alternative to silk, the plant-based viscose, also known as rayon, is inexpensive to make and applicable in many ways, including for casual wear items, denim, socks, bed linen, towels, face masks and wet wipes, The Jakarta Post article said.
However, it is tough to trace how the items to produce viscose were sourced and whether the labour rights were ensured.
And Bangladesh should concentrate more on investing in primary textiles, especially in woven and non-cotton sectors, to comply with the standards set by the European Union to avail trade benefits, the BGMEA study said.
A decade ago, Bangladesh had eight MMF-based textile companies, which has risen to nearly 60 now to meet the rising demand, said Monsoor Ahmed, secretary to the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association.
Some proposals for setting up new factories are pending with the association, he said.
Of the garment items exported from Bangladesh last fiscal year, 74.14 percent was made from cotton fibre, whereas it was 68.67 percent in 2008-09, the BGMEA study showed.