An aberration for sure, last year was not a very good one for the Bangladesh garment industry. Fall in apparel exports, hike in workers’ wages and the continuing trend of declining price points, all added up to create a very challenging atmosphere that held businesses in its shackles.
Not ready to be bogged down by the trying times and true to the undefeatable entrepreneurial spirit that Bangladesh is known for, the industry began the New Year on a cautious note while chalking up its roadmap for the future. As a close observer of the industry, it gives me immense happiness to see that unlike in many other apparel manufacturing destinations, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh is leading from the front to show the way forward.
Well-versed with the changing global market dynamics as she is, Sheikh Hasina, while assuring to extend all possible support to the industry called upon the textile and garment sector to go for product diversification and market expansion to give a fillip to the export earnings. She called upon the entrepreneurs to add value to their existing products, underlining that fashions, designs and colours of apparel items in the global market are constantly changing, necessitating diversification of products portfolio in line with buyers’ demands.
Keeping true to the vision and wish for leadership, the industry is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that Bangladesh is back to where it belongs – the most preferred global apparel sourcing destination, while also suggesting the kind of help and support it would need from the Government to be back on the top of the game once again.
The BGMEA requested the Government to form a special task force to ensure coordination among the ministries and departments for adopting and implementing necessary industry policies. The President of the traders’ body, Dr. Rubana Huq, in a letter written to Ahmad Kaikaus, Principal Secretary of PMO, requested him to form the task force to ensure inter-ministerial coordination for speedy implementation of the urgent and long-term sector-related measures, while also asking for policy support to set up plants for artificial fibres to remain competitive in the global market.
She also requested the Principal Secretary to introduce ‘prevailing wage’ instead of the minimum wage and to ensure balance between wage and skill.
On the business front, to grab a bigger share in the market collectively by utilising each other’s strengths, the BGMEA also signed an MoU with the Joint Apparel Association Forum ( JAAF) of Sri Lanka to promote and enhance cooperation in the field of production, trade, commerce and research related to the textile and garment industry.
Further owning up to its responsibilities to ensure a sustainable future for the industry, BGMEA signed an agreement with the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh for establishing a council for the transition of responsibilities for issues like worker safety. However, one issue that is still bothering the industry is that of pricing. The trade body underlined that even as the number of USGBC-certified green factories stood at 108, and more than 500 factories registered for obtaining green certification – testimony to the sustainability endeavours – unit price of products decreased by 1.61 per cent between 2014 and 2018, which surely calls for introspection and course correction.
Given a little help from the other stakeholders, besides the steps being taken by the Government and the industry in tandem, I am sure will help script a new chapter that would be in the best interest of the industry as well as the buyers.