The country's ceramic manufacturers have demanded low-cost funds on easy terms for payment of their workers' salaries, allowances and Eid bonuses.
"We need low-cost funds to pay salaries for May, June, July and August along with festival allowances of our workers," said said Md Shirajul Islam Mollah, president of the Bangladesh Ceramic Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BCMEA).
The trade body made the call in their budget proposals that it handed over to the finance ministry on April 28.
Businesses have so far invested Tk 9,000 crore in the sector, which directly employs 50,000 workers and indirectly over 500,000.
The country has 68 ceramic factories that made export and import-alternative products, including tableware, tiles and sanitary ware, worth around Tk 6,000 crore in 2019.
Ceramic sector earns over Tk 400 crore worth of foreign currency a year by exporting ceramic products to more than 50 countries.
"The local companies meet 90 per cent of the country's demand for ceramic products," said the BCMEA president. The sector was doing great, but the Covid-19 outbreak spoiled the growth momentum, he said.
The second wave of the deadly coronavirus wreaked havoc on the sector, the association said.
Ceramic factories are now running on a limited scale with shortened manpower maintaining health and hygiene rules, it said.
"In this situation, sales have slowed to a great extent, making it difficult to clear payments of workers' salaries and allowances."
Moreover, factory owners are also failing to clear bank loan instalments on a regular basis, it added.
There is a lot of pressure on the industry owners to pay the salaries, allowances and bonuses of the workers and employees for the upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr, said Irfan Uddin.
For the survival of the local ceramic industry, Bangladesh Bank should provide loans on easy terms as financial incentives, he said.
Tk 85 crore is paid as monthly salaries among the employees of ceramic factories. The amount of allowance is needed to be added with it," said Irfan Uddin, general secretary of the BCMEA.
The government should ensure bank loans for the ceramic makers at 2 per cent interest for the next four months, he said.
The association demanded waiver of interest on loans given by banks and financial institutions and payment deferral for the next one year.
It further sought postponement of payments for electricity, gas and water bills of all ceramic factories for the next one year and demanded uninterrupted utility connection during the period.