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Prices yet to go up despite big investment

Arifur Rahaman Tuhin
17 May 2023 00:00:00 | Update: 17 May 2023 00:06:32
Prices yet to go up despite big investment
Traders and visitors at the 14th Bangladesh Denim Expo at International Convention City Bashundhara in Dhaka on Tuesday– Shamsul Haque Ripon

Bangladeshi investors say they have made big investments to reduce water consumption for per kg denim wash from 360 litres to 10 litres, but brands are yet to increase product prices.

In some cases, buyers even cut prices, citing poor business, they said on Tuesday, the first day of the 14th Bangladesh Denim Expo.

The two-day event started at International Convention City Bashundhara in the capital. Over 90 local and international companies are attending it, displaying fabrics, garments, threads, machinery, finishing equipment, and accessories.

Industry insiders told the expo that though climate change is a matter of concern for everyone, it is only manufacturers who are bearing all expenses regarding reducing water consumption and carbon emissions.

That is why most factory owners investing in sustainable apparel manufacturing are worried that they will not get any return on their investments, they said.

Manufacturers, however, said they expect the situation will change if they can create awareness among consumers across the world.

Bangladesh Apparel Exchange Founder and Chief Executive Officer Mostafiz Uddin told The Business Post sustainable apparel production expenses should be shared among manufacturers, brands, and retailers as climate change is a global crisis.

But only manufacturers are bearing all expenses, he said, adding brands should increase prices so that sustainable apparel production can continue and thus the world can be saved.

Denim producers said they would previously wash the fabric manually through the hand-wash method, needing more than 360 litres of water per kg. But thanks to ozone and laser technologies, this has come down to only 10 litres.

They said they took the initiative as Western consumers want ethically-produced garments. Such clothes are made by ensuring various compliances, such as using less water and less power.

Tanvir Hossain, project manager of technology supplier Jeanologia, said many Bangladeshi denim producers spend nine litres of water to wash a pair of jeans as they use ozone and laser technologies. However, the majority of denim manufacturers use 15-30 litres of water, he said while talking to The Business Post at his stall.

Jeanologia has supplied laser technologies to more than 800 factories in Bangladesh. Previously, factory owners were not aware of the excessive use of water. But now they are aware and use less water as well as less chemicals to wash denim. Tanvir said high inflation in Europe caused by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has been affecting business, with machinery sales slowing down.

Brant Tong, sales manager of XDD Textile in Vietnam, said business is slow now because of inflation but may turn around after six months as the crisis in the major export destinations in the Western world could ease.

He said Bangladesh is a big market for his company where it sells seven lakh yards of denim.

“As demand is rising here, we are seeing a 30-40 per cent year-on-year sales growth. We are able to use less water to dye and wash denim because of modern technologies,” he added.

Alice Tonello, managing director of Tonello in Italy, also said the garment business is down in Europe now because of high inflation.

Consumers’ spending behaviour also changed a lot after the Covid-19 pandemic as they now want to spend more on tourism and other experiences rather than buying clothes, she said.

She further said Bangladeshi factory owners have reduced water consumption significantly with the use of technologies.

Denim manufacturers said though they are yet to get better prices despite investing a lot in high-tech machinery capable of reducing carbon emissions and water consumption, they will continue the initiatives, regardless of whether brands raise prices or not.

They said they believe this will bring something good after a certain period as Western consumers deeply care about climate change impacts.

However, to cash in on the sustainable manufacturing opportunity, the clothing sector needs huge branding across the world, they added.

Azizur R Chowdhury, managing director of JM Fabrics, said, “We are manufacturing sustainable clothes, but consumers do not know it yet. That is why we need to take some steps, such as organising exhibitions and roadshows in export destinations.”

“When we will be known and recognised for sustainable apparel manufacturing, brands will be bound to pay more due to consumer pressure,” he added.

Pacific Jeans Director Syed Mohammed Tahmir said, “It is true that we are not getting better prices even after making huge investments and big changes in manufacturing methods, the move will bear fruit one day.