Kalaroa upazila, next to Sharsha upazila of Jashore district, is famous for handmade tiles that are being exported abroad.
But the potential tiles industry which had been earning a substantial amount of hard currency and playing a leading role in the economy is dying for lack of govt patronage, banks' apathy to loan facilities to this vibrant industry, lack of proper export policy of the government etc.
Thousands of workers associated with the industry have by this time lost their jobs.
Entrepreneurs say there is a lack of Bangladeshi tiles marketing system in the international market. The main reason for the crisis is the lack of export policies and modernisation in the tile industry. In addition, even if the cost of production increases, the price does not increase,
However, only a handful of factory owners are still trying their best to keep the industry afloat.The worldwide corona pandemic has also hit the industry.
In the year 2000, some Kumar families of Murarikati village in Kalaroa Sadar Upazila started producing these clay tiles. Then, in 2004, Italian importer Rafaili Aldo first imported decorative tiles for housing from Murarikati in Kalaroa.
As tiles began to be exported abroad, most of the Kumar community families in Murarikati village became financially self-sufficient. Later it is no longer confined to the hands of the Kumars.
About 90 per cent of the households in Murarikati village are involved in the production of clay tiles for export. Employment opportunity has been created for many women and men in the vicinity. At one stage, from 2004 to 2016, the exporters of Murarikati village in Kalaroa were booming in the tile industry.
But in the last five years, at least 40 of the nearly 50 manufacturing plants have been closed down. At present there are 10 surviving factories are here.
Some of these factories are-- Kalaroa Clay International, Badal Das Clay International, Bhai Bhai Tally Karkhana, Srikanth Tally, Abdus Chatter Tally, Neshar Ali Tally, Telesh Pal Tally, Abdur Rob Tally and Emadul Tally. The first exporter in this regard was Gostapado Pal of Murarikati village in Kalaroa.
The tiles industry here has been lost in just 5 years due to lack of demand abroad, it has become difficult to lower the production cost of each tile. It costs Tk 8 to 13 to produce a floor tile. Exporters are paying 9 to 14 taka for each. Each rickt angular tile is selling for 7 taka. But its production cost is 7 to 8 and a half taka.
Head Dragular tile costs Tk 5. But it is being sold at the price of 5 taka. The production cost and selling price of designed bricks is Tk 9 to 12.
At present, at least 600 to 700 rural women and men workers have lost their jobs.
Former President of Jashore Chamber of Commerce and industry Mizanur Rahman said tiles industry became very promising like shrimp export. Due to various crises, that promising industry is facing closure today. If the industry could survive, the government could earn foreign exchange just as the entrepreneurs would benefit.
He requested the ministries concerned of the government and others to keep this potential tile industry alive.