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10 August, 2015 12:16:15 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 10 August, 2015 10:44:45 AM
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Ctg tanneries in doldrums

Of the 21 leather manufacturing industries, only two enterprises--Madina Tannery and Riff Leather Ltd--managed to survive in the port city
ANWAR HUSSAIN, CTG
Ctg tanneries in doldrums
Employees busy in a tannery at Kularghat in Chittagong yesterday. The tanners of the premier port city are struggling to stay afloat as the number of leather processing units has been witnessing a sharp decline over the years. PHOTO: Rajib Raihan

The tanners of the premier port city are struggling to stay afloat as the number of leather processing units has been witnessing a sharp decline over the years.
Many tanneries of Chittagong which once made brisk business and contributed to the economy of the country have now been compelled to wind up their businesses.According to the tanners, once there were a total of 18 tanneries in Chittagong before 1971. After the liberation of Bangladesh, the tanneries witnessed a boom and the number rose to 21.Of the 21 leather manufacturing industries, only two enterprises- Madina Tannery and Riff Leather Ltd managed to survive in Chittagong.    However, of the two tanneries, only Riff Leather Ltd is currently in operation with a total production capacity of 80 lakh sqft.  
The production in Madina tannery has remained suspended from June 17 this year as the Department of Environment (DoE), Chittagong sealed off Madina Tannery and ordered to stop production until setting up an effluent treatment plant (ETP).
Karnaphuli Tannery, Hilton Tannery, Orient Tannery, Meghna Tannery, Jubilee Tannery, Ali Tannery, Rawshan Tannery, HRC Leather are some the businesses which could not weather the rough time.
The tanners attributed the sluggish trend to a recent drop in China’s footwear production and export tariff hike in China, huge stock from the previous year and stoppage of cattle import from India.
According to reports by Indian media, around 25 lakh cattle, on average, are smuggled into Bangladesh every year and the figure was 17 lakh last year.
When asked why the tanneries of Chittagong could not manage to keep afloat, Abu Mohammad, proprietor of Madina Tannery, said, “In terms of quality production, the tanneries of Chittagong were much ahead of others in Hazaribag. However, the tanneries of Chittagong could not retain their position due to some reasons.”
Echoing with the observation, Md Mokhlesur Rahman, director (Operations and Sale), Riff Leather Ltd said many entrepreneurs were compelled to shut down their businesses since the industry is highly skill-based.
“Before 1971, the tanneries of Chittagong were mostly owned by non-Bengali people. During the war of liberation in 1971 the non-Bengali tanners of Bangladesh left the country abandoning the tanneries owned by them. After the war, the new government of Bangladesh vested the management of these units on a newly formed Tannery Corporation. Unfortunately, the corporation did not serve the purpose due to lack of experience and other reasons. Later, the government relinquished the Tannery Corporation and handed over the management of most of these tanneries to Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC). In 1982, the government transferred them to private entrepreneurs in pursuance of its general policy of disinvestment,” reminisced the septuagenarian entrepreneur.
Admitting the sluggish trend of leather market, Abu Mohammad said, “A huge stock to the tune of 30 lakh square foot wet blue is getting damaged in my tannery due to the ban on running factory production. Madina Tannery had started processing leather back in 1983. Now the tannery manufactures 60 lakh sft wet blue per annum. 155 permanent and 100 casual workers will become unemployed if the factory cannot run production,”
“We have already applied for plot for relocating my unit to Savar Leather Industrial Park. However, the shifting process is being delayed due to some valid reasons. We cannot afford the astronomical cost of setting up Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) in Chittagong as we are shifting to Savar Leather Park with Central ETP facility. Injustice has been done to me by not letting me run factory production,” lamented Mohammad.
Pointing to the slump in leather market, Md Mokhlesur Rahman, director (Operations and Sale), Riff Leather Ltd, said, “The wet blue stock in his unit stands at 50 lakh sqft. At this point in time in previous years, there would be no stock of wet blue in the factory.”  
 “This is very alarming for the rawhide traders of Chittagong that the tanneries are shutting down their businesses. We have to sell rawhide to the tanners on credit. 50 percent rawhide is bought by the two tanners of Chittagong while the rest is bought by the two tanneries of Chittagong,” said Moslem Uddin, former president of Chittagong Rawhide Traders Association.  
According to the Chittagong Rawhide Traders Association, there are now 112 rawhide warehouses in Chittagong.
 “Several hundred rawhide traders and 2000 workers of the rawhide warehouses will be ruined if the two tanneries of Chittagong cannot run smoothly,” apprehended Md Sekander, President of Chittagong Rawhide Traders Association.   
“We are really hit hard as the demand for leather, leather goods and footwear has gone down a bit in the international market. Bangladesh is heavily dependent on supply of cows and goats from India. However, the import of cows from India has been stopped,” said Sekander.   
“The leather goods exporters of our country are going through a difficult time as China has slapped a huge tariff. However, we have so many advantages in the export-earning sector since Bangladesh has the seventh largest cattle population in the world. Though Bangladesh holds less than one percent of the global leather market, it has the potential to expand its share in the global arena,” said Shaheen Ahmed, chairman of Bangladesh Tanners Association and chairman of Kohinoor Tanneries.

 

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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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