Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) believes that the country’s garment sector is now on its way to recover from the drawbacks of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In an interview with The Business Post’s Ibrahim Hossain Ovi, BGMEA President Faruque Hassan said Bangladesh has been very successful in retaining buyer’s confidence by maintaining timely shipments even amid the disruption of the global supply chain.
Hassan, managing director of Giant Group, is also the honorary consul general of Greece in Bangladesh.
The RMG sector suffered severely due to Covid-19. What is your comment on the recovery?
I am very much optimistic in this regard. We have been able to retain the buyers’ confidence by ensuring an uninterrupted supply of goods amid the disruption of the global supply chain. Despite having difficulties caused by the lockdown, manufacturers delivered goods in time.
On the other hand, we have taken orders below the production cost just to retain buyers and run the factories in compliance with the health safety guidelines.
When the global demands for clothing products fell, we adopted a policy to produce products needed during the ‘’stay-at-home’’ period.
As a result, exports of knitwear products, including casual dress, posted a sharp rise in the last fiscal year.
Why will buyers choose Bangladesh as an import source?
Bangladesh has taken the lead among the environment-friendly Green Certified factories. We are committed in protecting the environment and acknowledge the risks of climate change. It is also our commitment towards society, the people, the next generation and the country.
How will this sector grow further?
We are the winners for cotton products, but there is a huge gap when it comes tonon-cotton products. To grow further, we would like to focus on manmade fibre products.
To this end, huge investments have been made to upgrade technologies and factory capacity to produce non-cotton products.
On the other hand, special attention has been given to attract new buyers and markets to expand the export volume.
Recently, Disney World committed to restarting procuring products from Bangladesh. It left Bangladesh in 2013 due to compliance issues.
This is a good sign as it would revive the image and branding of the country.
In addition, we are in talks with global buyers who mostly focus on high-end products.
To be competitive in the global market with non-cotton products, the government should offer cash incentives against the exports of these products. Primarily, incentives should be given on goods made with imported fabrics and yarns.
On top of that, in the last few years, we upgraded machinery and technology, which increased our capacity and capability.
A wide range of product diversification has been introducedthrough intra-apparel products, which is a good sign to take lead in the global markets.
What are the challenges you see for the sector?
The price of yarn and fabrics is a big challenge for the country’s apparel industry. Yarn and fabric manufacturers have hiked the prices, which is much higher than the price of cotton.
A short-term profiting tendency is also being noticed among the manufacturers, which is not a sustainable business approach.
Yarn and fabric manufacturers mostly keep their output based on the local demand and not for competing in exports directly. Therefore, if we import from other countries, this would have a negative impact on them.
On the other hand, a shortage of cargo vessel has been threatening exports as it would hit the lead time badly.
Skilled workforce and innovation are other challenges here but we are working to this end by launching an innovation centre soon. This centre will work on developing and designing products, as well as on the efficiency of employees and workers.
What about the FDI in the sector?
In the last 10 years, our exporters have made huge investments towards non-cotton products and we are ready. But this segment will need more investment when the export volume increases.
We welcome foreign direct investment (FDI) for high-end products and the non-cotton segment.
What are you doing to ensure vaccination of workers?
There is a limitation in the supply of Covid-19 vaccines and the government is yet to allow commercial imports. But we are working with the government to bring workers under the coverage for front liners and hope the government will consider it.
Besides, the supply of Covid-19 vaccine doses will be available soon as the government is in talks with several countries to get vaccines. If the supply is improved, we would be able to vaccinate workers for the sake of the country’s economy.