Ctg's share in garment exports on the decline
Garment exporters in Chittagong expressed concern and called for urgent steps as their contribution to the country's total apparel exports is slipping below 10 percent.
They said the authorities have to take actions in infrastructure development for the industry to flourish in the port city.
The total exports of garments from Bangladesh in 1991-92 were worth $1.5 billion, with Chittagong's contribution being $500 million, that is, a third of the nation's exports.
But, in 20 years' time, the share dipped to 22.6 percent. In 2011-12, Chittagong's share was $4.5 billion out of the country's total exports of $19.89 billion, an exporter said, quoting official figures.
If urgent steps are not taken, this figure would soon drop below 10 percent, said Nasiruddin Chowdhury, the immediate past first vice-president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
Garment factories should be relocated outside the city as has been done in a planned way in places like Ashulia, Gazipur and Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka with proper infrastructure development, said another exporter.
Government assistance in this regard is essential, Amjadul Ferdous Chowdhury, chairman of BSA Group of Industries, said.
“No new projects can be undertaken due to a shortage of lands,” Chowdhury added.
He also stressed improving both local and regional connectivity for the port city.
Due to travel problems, foreign buyers often prefer to stay in Dhaka rather than travelling to Chittagong, Chowdhury said.
Chittagong also needs more modern hotels to attract foreign investors and the authorities need to look at these matters urgently, he added.
Pradip Dutta, director of Maxim Group of Companies, who has been involved with the garment industry since its inception in Bangladesh, also agreed with the problem of connectivity.
Because of official hurdles, the foreign buyers find it easier to set up their offices in Dhaka, rather than moving to other parts of the country, Dutta said.
Chittagong is very strategically located for setting up export-oriented industries, more so, because of its proximity to the largest seaport of the country.
“So it makes more business sense to set up modern garment factories in Chittagong,” Dutta said.
A separate area could be earmarked for setting up factories on the outskirts of Chittagong too, he added.
Another exporter also emphasised improving internal connectivity, including rapid completion of Dhaka-Chittagong expanded highway.
The entrepreneurs of Chittagong will have to take some bold initiatives, said SM Abu Tayyab, managing director of Independent Apparels and another former first vice president of the BGMEA.
“Almost half of the garment factories failed to meet various compliance issues required to meet the international standards and this is where we need to be more active,” Tayyab said.
The factories also require putting more attention to their capacity building, he said.
Otherwise, the orders would not filter through to the garment factories in Chittagong, Tayyab added.
He also said, because of its location, Chittagong is at least three days 'better off' in getting its products to the port. Even on strike days, the exporters can bring in their goods to the port by transporting these at night.
Nasiruddin Chowdhury, however, feels that a pressure group similar to "Better Business Forum" needs to be set up to look after the interests of the businesses in Chittagong.
This could be done under the umbrella of Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and such a pressure group could influence the policymakers to bring back the glory days of garment exports of Chittagong.