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6 August, 2015 00:00 00 AM
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Apparel units in Ctg need to be revitalised

ANWAR HUSSAIN, Ctg

The apparel industry began its journey in the port city back in 1978. Moreover, the first, and the largest, Export Processing Zone is situated in the commercial capital. There was a time when the apparel sector used to earn 40 percent of its total export income from Chittagong. However, the contribution to the total export income from Chittagong has plummeted to a meagre 15 percent.
According to the BGMEA, the total number of industrial units in Chittagong has declined from 700 to 450, employing around 5 lakh workers.    Many RMG factory owners have already wound up their businesses due to inspections by Accord and Alliance – the two separate platforms of the American-Canadian and EU retailers. The entrepreneurs attribute the steep decline to multiple reasons, including gas and electricity crisis, absence of an industrial village outside the EPZ and the astronomical price of land in Chittagong.
To overcome the crises, the RMG factory owners of Chittagong have asked for gas and electricity connections and allocation of land for the construction of a special apparel zone.
“All business related activities have now become centralised in Dhaka. There was a time when entrepreneurs from Chittagong used to lead in the country’s RMG sector.
However, apparel factory owners of this commercial hub are now lagging behind and they are compelled to relocate their businesses to Dhaka for many reasons. Unlike Chittagong, the industrial units located in different parts of Dhaka, Narayanganj and Mymensingh such as Ashulia, Tongi, Savar and Bhaluka are getting gas and electricity supply easily. Moreover, the excessive price of land in Chittagong is also a deterrent for entrepreneurs for setting up industrial units,” said Nasir Uddin Ahmed Chowdhury, first Vice-President of BGMEA.
“The sharp decline from 40 percent to 15 percent does not bode well for the country’s RMG sector when we have set a target to export readymade garment amounting to $50 billion by 2021. I wanted to set up an industrial unit here in Chittagong.
However, I was taken aback by the price of land, which is Tk. 30 lakh per khata,” lamented Chowdhury.   
“Chittagong has a lot of potential to exploit due to its unique geographical location. Around 95 percent of the country’s export-import activities are routed through the Chittagong Port. Factories established in Chittagong have an edge over others due to this. In terms of ‘lead time’, the factories set up in Chittagong could save up to 5-7 days and it will eventually enhance our competitiveness in the international apparel market,” added Chowdhury.
According to Investopedia, ‘lead time’ is defined as the time taken between the start of a process and when it is completed. In business, lead time minimisation is usually preferred. “There is no shortage of land as there are so many state-owned businesses in Chittagong like the Amin Jute Mill, which is in dire straits. The government can easily allocate the land of these sick industries for establishing an industrial village in Chittagong,” Chowdhury pointed out.
“We can save $1-1.5 on each unit of garment produced if we could exploit the facilities of the Chittagong Port.
The RMG factory owners in Chittagong have been deprived of new gas connections for the last 7-8 years. Moreover, electricity connections to the factories were also suspended,” said Mohammaed Abdus Salam, former first Vice-President of BGMEA.
“To revitalise the RMG factories in Chittagong, the government can easily allocate land at affordable prices that is lying unused in Anwara, Mirasarai and Patiya upazilas of Chittagong,” added Salam, who is also the Chairman of the Chittagong Club.
Echoing him, Nasir Uddin Chowdhury, former first Vice-President of BGMEA said that the government should consider allocating land for constructing a special zone for the apparel industry on an urgent basis.   
“Chittagong plays a pivotal role in the trade and commerce of the country.
Leaving Chittagong out of the roadmap, it is not possible to achieve the target of exporting readymade garment amounting to $50 billion by 2021,” added Nasir.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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