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Bangladesh apparel makers fear losses over highway woes

The long tailback of goods-laden trucks on Dhaka-Chittagong highway in Mirsarai, Chittagong on May 13, 2018. On that date, the tailback reached 114 kilometres from Comilla to Chittagong
The long tailback of goods-laden trucks on Dhaka-Chittagong highway in Mirsarai, Chittagong on May 13, 2018. On that date, the tailback reached 114 kilometres from Comilla to Chittagong

Bangladesh’s apparel manufacturers are fearing of losses as a long tailback on a major highway has stalled communication between the country’s apparel hub and the port city of Chittagong, causing massive lead time lapse, and are demanding special arrangements for the cause.

On May 13, 2018, the tailback extended for 114 kilometres – from Chauddagram, Comilla, to Sitakunda, Chittagong – because of an overpass construction in Feni. The severe tailback has been pursuing for the last five days stretching the normal seven-hour journey to upto 20 hours.

A traffic inspector of the Fauzderhat Highway Police Outpost, Rafique Mazumder, told Apparel Resources that a railway-overpass is being constructed in Feni’s Fatehpur. “One side of the highway remains closed for the construction, hence the tailback. A diversion road exists, but wear and tear on it has slowed down traffic movement along the whole highway,” he apprised.

“The situation has become impossible. We are receiving complaints from apparel manufacturers in this issue and they are in fear that the buyers might scrap orders because of high lead time,” Siddiqur Rahman, President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association (BGMEA), told Apparel Resources.

He suggested that the Government must intervene, and if possible, launch emergency train services if the apparel makers are to continue business in this circumstance. However, until last reported, the BGMEA chief had no reports of order cancellation resulting from the impasse.

It is to be noted that the Dhaka-Chittagong highway is the only major road that links the port city to the apparel hub of Dhaka and Narayanganj. Also, there aren’t indications that the situation is likely to improve soon as no further diversion routes have been created.

In this circumstance, Bangladesh’s Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, on May 13, 2018, promised that the railway overpass in Feni will be completed within the first week of June. However, for the meantime, he has offered no remedy to ease the situation.

It is to be noted that Chittagong Port is the principal port of Bangladesh that handled 80 per cent of the country’s export-import trade worth around US $ 75 billion in the 2016-17 fiscal year. It is the main shipping point for the apparel items of the country.