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We now need a dedicated industrial park for the ceramic industry for sustaining its growth and increasing export volume. The park must be set up on the high ground, and uninterrupted gas-power supply has to be ensured, says Bangladesh Ceramic Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BCMEA) President Md Shirajul Islam Mollah in an exclusive interview with The Business Post’s Rafikul Islam.
The demand for ceramic products has increased significantly in Bangladesh. What is the current situation of the sector?
The demand for ceramics has risen significantly due to the increasing number of megaprojects undertaken by the government in recent years. Besides, the increased per capita income of the country’s people is another reason behind the soaring local demand.
Ceramics production has increased by around 200 per cent in the last 10 years. Around $1.58 billion has been invested in the sector. Of the amount, 62 per cent has been invested in tiles, 23 per cent in tableware, and 15 per cent in sanitary items production.
There are approximately 70 ceramics-producing companies in the country. Ceramic items worth around $50 million are exported every year to more than 50 countries across the globe while domestic sale is worth around $709 million.
What kinds of challenges do you face in operating factory?
The current natural gas crisis in the global market has impacted the local industries also. The rising price of gas in addition to the supply chain disruption has emerged as the biggest challenge to continuing production at the factories. Already, production has reduced by 40-50 per cent in recent times due to the ongoing gas crisis. We are facing difficulties to operate the factories, after paying the salaries of employees and bank loans and bearing other expenditures.
However, we have already sent separate letters to Prime Minister’s Adviser for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, and the Chairman of Petrobangla (Bangladesh Oil, Gas & Mineral Corporation) Nazmul Ahsan seeking uninterrupted gas and power supply to ceramics industry.
What is the future potential of ceramic products in local and global markets?
Previously, we used to export tableware worth Tk 50 crore annually. We expect to export sanitary ware and tiles in huge volumes by 2025.
What is the current situation of the sector regarding skilled manpower which is mandatory for sustainable growth?
Around 60,000 employees are directly, and around 500,000 indirectly, engaged in the industry. But there is a lack of skilled manpower in the ceramic sector.
If we can supply products according to the demand of the customers, we will be able to increase exports in the near future to ensure sustainable growth of the market.
What type of products is more in demand in the local and global markets?
There are 70 ceramics companies in the country, producing tiles, sanitary ware, tableware, and ceramic bricks. All the companies are performing well, serving the local and global markets.
Do you face any challenges to import raw materials?
As the raw materials for ceramics production are not available in our country, 80 per cent of the total production cost is spent on raw materials import. We face many difficulties while taking delivery of imported raw materials from customs. The process is time-consuming as the customs take a lot of time in the name of physical examination of the products.
How can Bangladesh lure more foreign investments in the sector?
Bangladesh can attract more foreign investments in the sector ensuring an uninterrupted supply of gas and electricity in the government economic zones. Presently, the government provides a minimum of 5 years of tax rebate for new ventures in the special economic zones.
We demand a 20 per cent cash incentive, instead of the present 10 per cent, on the export of all ceramic products.
What is your plan as the managing director of China-Bangla Ceramic Industries Limited?
At present, we produce around 25,000 sqm per annum. With an aim to increase our production capacity up to 30,000 sqm by 2024, we are going to build a new unit soon.
What government support is needed for the growth of the sector?
In our country, we get a skilled workforce at reasonable wages, which is a positive thing. Government policy support is a must for encouraging local ceramics manufacturers as well as for the growth of the sector. We now need a dedicated industrial park for the ceramics industry which ultimately will ensure sustainable growth of the sector and increase export volume.
The park must be set up on a high ground and accommodate 100-150 companies. Moreover, uninterrupted gas and electricity supply must be ensured.