After meeting winter clothing needs of the country’s low and limited-income groups, knitwear factories in Kochashahar union of Gobindaganj upazila are now looking to export their goods overseas.
Started by a handful of entrepreneurs about two decades ago, the knitwear industry has become the primary source of income for almost every household in the union. Over the years, knitwear and hosiery factories spread to nearby areas -- Mahimaganj, Shalmara and Shibpur unions and neighbouring upazila of Shibganj in Bogura.
Various types of low-priced warm clothing -- sweater, cardigan, socks, gloves and muffler -- for all ages are now being made in the region. Nayarhat in Kochashahar has turned into a wholesale trading hub where buyers from all over the country have been flocking before the winter.
According to industry insiders, the small knitting units in the region can produce around ten thousand pieces of clothing each year and the larger ones produce around one lakh pieces a year.
During a visit to the area, the knitting factories were seen busy making goods ahead of the upcoming winter season. Vendors from different districts were also found collecting goods from the wholesale market while many were placing their orders with the manufacturers.
Depending on quality, wholesale price of a regular sweater ranges from Tk 200 to Tk 600, cardigan Tk 300 to Tk 600 and muffler Tk 50 to Tk 100, they added.
Jahurul Islam, who works as a technician at one such factory, said more than five thousand people now make a living by working at the factories and many of their family members are also doing knitwear-related work.
Shahadul Islam, owner of Rasel Fashion Industries in Nayarhat area, however, said the industry is gripped by numerous problems.
High rates of tax and duties to import yarn from India, Thailand, China and Indonesia are among the main problems, he added.
Absence of online banking services and poor road condition in the industrial area are among other major setbacks, said another factory owner Khaja Mia.
Time-consuming procedures and strict collateral requisites set by banks for issuing loans to business owners are compelling many owners to borrow money at high interest rates from local loan sharks, said Taslim Uddin, a wholesaler at Nayarhat market.
He also said the industry also suffers heavy losses for loss of production due to frequent power outage, from eight to ten hours, during summer time.
Many of the owners said if the government took necessary measures to resolve the problems and set up a training facility for knit workers in the area, they would soon be able to earn foreign exchange from export after meeting local demands.
Contacted, Gobindaganj Upazila Nirbahi Officer Ramkrishna Barman said Tk 300 crore worth of winter clothing is expected to be sold in the country this year and a training facility for knit workers and technicians in Nayarhat would be built by the government.