CHATTOGRAM: The coronavirus pandemic has weighed heavily on the readymade garment (RMG) sector in the port city, as orders worth about Tk 100 billion from global apparel brands have already been cancelled.
As a result, at least 30 RMG factories have closed down, said sources in the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
According to the officials of BGMEA, there are a total of 689 garment factories in the port city of Chattogram. Of them, 241 are big factories and they are running smoothly.
But the RMG factories have lost orders of Tk 100 billion in the last few months. Moreover, the factories in Chattogram did not get any new orders in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, they said.
Besides, many factories failed to ship RMG consignments to foreign countries during the coronavirus-induced government holidays, they added.
Sources said the RMG factories in Chattogram generally export 60 per cent of their production to the USA and European countries. But the shipment of apparels remained suspended since the pandemic started in Europe.
The owners of RMG factories said the production and export of garments from Chattogram came to a standstill due to coronavirus outbreak. As a result, massive stocks of raw materials have been lying unused in the godowns of most factories.
BGMEA officials feared that more factories might face closures in such a situation, as many factories are still struggling to pay the wages to their workers.
MA Salam, the first vice-president of BGMEA in Chattogram, said, "The RMG sector is facing a severe crisis in these times of coronavirus pandemic. It is now very difficult for the factory owners to clear the wages of workers."
He said, "Many orders worth Tk 100 billion have already been cancelled for factories in Chattogram and there are no new orders from European countries."
Cancellations of orders have caused a massive loss to more than 200 factories, he added.
"I think we have to wait until after coronavirus crisis eases in Europe and the USA for new orders. But how many factories can survive until then?" he posed a question.
Mentioning that orders worth over Tk 350 billion in the country's RMG sector were cancelled, he said, "The RMG sector in Chattogram has lost orders worth Tk over 100 billion."
Nasir Uddin Chowdhury, former first vice-president of BGMEA, said, "We are now going through tough times of business due to coronavirus outbreak. Orders for RMG have been cancelled while no new orders are expected in the near future. How can we run our factories in this circumstance?"
He said, "The RMG sector in Chattogram is facing a crisis of existence now. The crisis has started in January last and is continuing until now."
"When the coronavirus broke out in China, the export of raw materials from there came to a halt. But when the situation became normal in China, the pandemic began in Europe and the USA. As a result, the business of RMG sector in Chattogram as well as all over the country took a severe blow," he added.
President of Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) Mahabubul Alam said, "Coronavirus pandemic has badly affected the overall business performance in Bangladesh as well as across the world. RMG sector is also suffering severely. It is a natural disaster and pandemic. However, the situation will return to normal day by day once the coronavirus crisis starts to ease. I hope trade and business will bounce back soon."