The arrangement of an international leather technology fair -- sixth edition of the event -- and leather footwear and leather goods international sourcing show -- its second edition -- simultaneously in the city demonstrates an increasing opening up of the tannery industry to the outside world. Reportedly, over 300 participants from 20 countries are going to showcase their range of technologies in their pavilions. With bright prospect for it, the country's tannery industry has rightly been considered a thrust sector. Now that the majority of the tannery units have been relocated to Savar or are in the process of shifting from Hazaribagh, it is an opportune moment to introduce the latest and most advanced technologies available to the sector. The exposition to be held from Thursday makes the tanners here familiarised with such technologies. They will be able to choose the most suitable ones from a wide range of machinery, components, accessories and even dyes, chemicals and allied products.
Fairs of this order provide an opportunity for people in footwear manufacture and business to understand the trend of the international market, footwear fashion and style along with the development of technologies and their impact on the products. In Hazaribagh, tanneries were bogged down with primitive technologies and largely responsible for polluting the river Buriganga. Workers were forced to work in an unsafe environment as they were exposed to chemicals in the absence of proper protective gears. All this should be a thing of the past. But the relocation to Savar tannery estate suffered time and again in the face of opposition from tanners. Even there were lapses on the part of the government in putting in place the promised utilities and facilities. The central effluent treatment plant was not ready for operation, although the claim was made on the contrary, when a number of factories started production at the industrial estate. Overall the relocation has not been smooth and orderly.
Now that there has been an inordinate delay in shifting the tanneries from Hazaribagh to Savar, it may be a blessing in disguise, provided that the tanners take full advantage of the exposition. Already, a handful of footwear companies have proved they can earn a niche market abroad. Others will also have to set a benchmark for their products if they intend to profitably export their products to foreign countries. The aim is to achieve an ambitious export target of US$ 5.0 billion by 2021. With the government incentives continuing, this target is achievable.
However, the developments so far at the Savar tannery estate do not look highly encouraging. The kind of bonhomie demonstrated in the arrangement of tannery exhibitions of varying forms is missing from the groundwork needed for providing the impetus to the industry. The Savar industrial tannery estate could by now become a full-fledged advanced industrial park. But this is yet to happen. What happened with the collection of raw hides and skins in the post-Eid-ul-Azha period all across the country does not speak of an organised effort towards making the industry vibrant. All this should be addressed rationally if the potential of the industry has to be realised.
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