Factories are overflowing with finished goods due to the countrywide blockade that began on November 26, with many factory owners considering temporarily shutting down production for a dearth of storage space.
For instance, take an apparel factory spanning 20,000 square feet that produces 1,500 pieces of garments each day. After accommodating the cutting, sewing, finishing and packing workstations and office space for management, the factory would be left with storage space of 3,000 to 5,000 square feet, enough to accommodate 7-10 days' output.
Now, if the plant is unable to send out the finished products in 9 out of 10 days, it would easily reach its storage limit. In reality, most of the factories are staring at this conundrum, thanks to the nine days of countrywide blockade that the opposition alliance has enforced in the past 10 days.
Nizam Uddin, production manager of AG Textile Mills, which manufactures fabric for the garment sector, said the factory has been hit at both ends by the blockade: both the inflow of raw materials such as yarn and outflow of fabrics, have stalled.
Although the textile mill managed to carry out production as of yesterday, Nizam says the problem will become acute in a couple of days' time. “Most definitely, we will have to stop production for want for raw materials and storage space.”
Bengal NFK Textile, another similar factory, however, is less fortunate: lack of storage space has ground its production to a halt. It is now considering sending its workers off on casual leave.
“Our machines are designed in such a way that it will keep running for 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. If we
shut down the machines, it takes time to restart, which hampers productions. Either ways, we have to bear the financial burden,” said Imam Hossain Patwary, director of Bengal NFK Textile.
But it is the jute sector which is bearing the brunt of the blockade among the secondary sectors, as their products need more space.
Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) that runs 24 mills and employs 89,000 people has been forced to suspend production due to the blockade, said Humayun Khaled, chairman of BJMC.
“Neither can we buy and bring in raw jute into our factories nor can we sell the finished jute products.”
The company, which pays its workers on a weekly basis straight off its sales receipts, is unable to clear its payroll because of the “mountains of unsold goods”.
The BJMC chairman said he will take up the issue with the finance ministry and the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, as “doing business in this political climate has become impossible”.
Looking around, the impact of the blockade appears to be more or less the same in other sectors, be it bicycle manufacturers or battery makers.
Lutful Bari, director of operations of Meghna Innova Rubber Company, a leading exporter of bicycle, said if the blockade drags any further the company would be forced to lay-off workers. It has already cut down on production and sent a section of its staff on paid leave.
“I am deeply concerned about the financial losses and staff salaries,” said Nasiruddin Biswas, chairman of Nasir Group of Industries. Tobacco, melamine and glass are the conglomerate's money-makers, but the blockade forced a production cut in the latter two units – by 50 percent.
Swapon Kumar Dutta, factory manager of Quasem Dry Cell, a battery maker listed in the stock market, said the company managed to send out some stock to retailers across the country on Friday, the only blockade-free day in the last ten days. But, it had to pay a premium for transport.
Even if the situation gets to normal next week, transport operators will demand Tk 40,000-50,000 for per truck/covered van to carry goods to the port when the normal fare is Tk 15,000, said Narayan Chandra Shaha, director of Alauddin Group of Industries, which has two garment factories.
“Whichever way you look at it, we are the losers out of all this.”
The country has seen 52 days of shutdowns and 9 days of blockades so far in 2013.