Private silk makers cry for stimulus
Private sector silk producers in the northern districts demanded special allocation in the proposed budget for the overall development of the sector and employment generation for women.
Private silk industries need special government attention, said Mohammed Sadar Ali, managing director of Sopura Silk Mills Ltd, a silk maker in the region.
Chapainawabganj, Rajshahi, Natore, Bogra, Naogaon and Thakurgaon are the leading silk producing districts in the northern region.
Ali, now 61 years old, started silk business in 1979, investing only Tk 10,000 in a rented room in Rajshahi town. So far, he has opened five showrooms in Rajshahi, Dhaka and Chittagong.
“At the beginning, I had engaged only one worker to assist me. My workforce now exceeds two hundred and I created more than 10,000 indirect and contractual jobs in my silk business during the last 32 years,” said Ali, a pioneer in the private sector silk business.
Though the government has taken an initiative to develop the silk sector, bureaucratic tangles make it difficult for them to reap any benefit, he added. “I think there is ample scope to create many more jobs for the rural women in the country, especially in the silk producing districts including Rajshahi.”
Problems including a lack of technical knowledge, scarcity of yarn and inadequate government assistance make the business difficult for them, Ali said.
The private sector entrepreneurs have to buy Chinese yarn for their factories because of a scarcity of locally produced silk yarn. “Right now, China is not interested in exporting yarn to Bangladesh. Meanwhile, Vietnam and three other countries also stopped yarn export,” said Ali.
"We can produce raw silk in the country within another two years if the government provides technical support and encourages farmers to cultivate silk in 10 districts including Chapainawabganj, Rajshahi, Natore, Bogra, Naogaon and Thakurgaon.
The government will have to ensure proper utilisation of nurseries and restart the factories in Rajshahi and Thakurgaon to improve raw silk production in the country, Ali said. “We call for special allocation in the budget for the development of quality silk yarn production to meet the local needs.”
The price hike of yarn hampered production of silk goods during the last four years because of low supply of local yarn and a huge import dependence, he said, adding that silk production in the country wholly depends on Chinese yarn.
However, Ali managed to meet up to 15-20 percent of his total requirement by producing raw silk in his farms.
“Only two years ago, we bought Chinese yarn at Tk 1,400 to Tk 1,500 per kg, which now costs Tk 5,300. As a result, our production cost almost trebled,” said Ali.
Now only 400 handlooms and 25 powerlooms are running in the private sector factories in Rajshahi, he added.