Sherpa Hossainy's Blog

Trade unions push for RMG pay

Posted in Bangladesh, Business, Dhaka, Export and Import, RMG and textile by Sherpa Hossainy on August 28, 2011

Published in The Independent on 17 August 2011

Read the article on Independent website

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Different workers’ platform and trade unions demanded disbursement of garment workers’ salaries and bonuses before August 25 in a tripartite meeting on Tuesday.

The meeting was held between the government, owners and representatives of workers of the readymade garment (RMG) sector to plan peaceful disbursement of salaries and bonuses among workers before the Eid-ul-Fitr.

The sector trade body, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), initiated the talks.

The trade union leaders expressed satisfaction over the current relationship between the owners and the labourers and lauded the government efforts to keep stable situation in the factories.

They said there should be meetings between the owners in every factory to let the labourers know when they will get paid, how long they will work, and when they will have their vacation.

The trade union leaders said there are some factories that are not BGMEA or BKMEA members, and reluctant to follow BGMEA decisions.

“They could create some sporadic incidents that could create widespread problems,” a leader said.

Shajahan Khan, minister for shipping, said that previously there had been labour unrest because of untimely wage payment.

Selim Osman, president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), said that instead of confining the salary disbursement within August 25, the issue should be settled by mutual understanding among the owners and the labourers.

“There is power crisis, the roads are bad and shipments are delayed, so owners are also not in a favourable position; so giving two salaries and one bonus within a month is tough,” he said.

Abdus Salam Murshedy, president of Exporters Association Bangladesh, said the banks should be kept open on Friday and Saturdays, so that the shipments, LCs and the transactions can take place and the labourers can be paid in time.

Israfil Alam, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on labour ministry, said, “There are 50,000 factories, some random incidents may occur but don’t try to spread it like a plague and destroy the industry,” he said.

Md Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, president of BGMEA, said, “We highly value relation between the labourers and factory owners and we reach a consensus in line with their demands and owners’ capability.”

Primary textile sector faces tough time

Posted in Bangladesh, Business, Dhaka, Export and Import, RMG and textile by Sherpa Hossainy on August 11, 2011

Published in The Independent on 10 July 2011

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Dwindling yarn and cotton prices in the international market, incessant power and gas crisis and European Union’s new regulation have put Bangladesh’s primary textile sector (PTS) under grave threat, industry insiders said on Tuesday.

The global cotton prices steadily declined from May this year following an unprecedented rise from October 2010, and hit a momentous high of $2.52 per pound in April; while the prices were $0.95-$1.10 per pound in August-September in 2010.

Currently international cotton prices are hovering around $1-1.3 per pound and international yarn prices also declined from $6.5 per kg in April to $3-3.5 now.

“Now we are incurring around $3 loss per kg of yarn and the spinning mills now have a staggering high-priced yarn stock of 250,000 tonnes worth Tk 9,000 crore ($1.23 billion),” said Jahangir Alamin, president of Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) at a press conference in the city.

“Now the ready made garment (RMG) exporters can purchase low-priced woven and knit fabrics from China and India, because those countries have their own cotton production,” he added.

According to the National Board of Revenue (NBR) statistics, the imports of woven and knit fabrics in January-June period went up respectively by 51.18 and 293.06 per cent and yarn imports 18.21 per cent.

The BTMA president said 50 per cent of the total capacity of manufacturing mills is currently unused because of lower export orders and local demands.

He also said the textile mills’ production capacity has decreased by 35-40 per cent for the relentless gas and power crisis.

The BTMA chief said the new GSP criteria might seem to have benefited the ready made garment (RMG) makers, but the long-term growth potential of RMG solely depends on textile sector.

The new rules of origin (RoO), adopted from January 1 by the European Union (EU), fixed single-stage processing instead of two-stage as a condition to enjoy the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facility for the least developed countries.

The two-stage processing meant the garment makers had to purchase fabrics from the native country. But under the new rule they can import fabrics from other countries and still attain GSP facility, which gives their products duty-free access in the EU.

“Eighty per cent of all yarns and fabrics produced by this backward linkage industry are exported to the EU countries in the form of RMG. If the textiles sector does not survive, there is no chance of the RMG sector to survive either,” Alamin said.

“Our main competitor China and India are providing strong policy support and cash incentives for their textiles sector, which creates a 15-20 per cent price disadvantage at the onset,” he said.

Moreover, China and India’s market manipulation and anti-dumping policy is also hurting the textiles sector, he added.

Alamin said the government has failed miserably to provide any support and the existing incentives are insufficient to offset the rising price disadvantages.

The BTMA president raised a five-point demand to the government to save the textile sector.

The demands included: increasing the existing cash incentives from 5 percent to 15 per cent and continue it till 2015, taking safeguard measures to discourage imports of raw materials for RMG and encourage use of local fabric and yarn; declaring incurred loss into working capital term loan and put that into a interest-free block account providing two-year moratorium, removing all taxes and duties on polyester and viscous staple fibre to encourage diversification and reduce dependency on cotton and fixing bank interest rate down to a single-digit.

Alamin said in the past three years there had been no new investments in the textiles sector, which boasts existing investments worth over Tk 30,000 crore and where almost 10 million people are involved.

“If these problems persist, let alone new investments the existing ones would be wiped out and creation of new employment would become impossible,” he said.

In the first ten months of the previous fiscal year, the export earnings were $15.07 billion, where primary textile sector’s contribution was $9.06 billion. The contribution of the primary textile sector is more than 80 percent of the total export earnings of the country.

Bangladesh exports may feel US debt crisis pinch

Posted in Bangladesh, Business, Dhaka, Economy, Export and Import, RMG and textile by Sherpa Hossainy on August 5, 2011

Published in The Independent on 05 August 2011

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Leading economists warned of an inauspicious ripple-effect of US debt crisis on Bangladesh despite America averted a disastrous financial default in a last-ditch effort.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed a legislation to raise the US debt ceiling after Congress voted in favour of a bipartisan compromise deal. The bill raises the US debt limit by up to $2.4tn (£1.5tn) from $14.3tn, and makes savings of at least $2.1tn in 10 years.

The economists think Bangladesh and other developing nations will still be affected by the US austerity bill, which will mete out US government expenses and public expenditure and see the interest rates on mortgages, car loans, student loans and credit cards soar.

Professor Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of Centre for Policy Dialogue, said: “The dollar will weaken from the impact, so Bangladesh’s export competitiveness will be undermined as our currency (Taka) will be appreciated against the dollar.”

“US public expenditure will be toned down as an effect, so the recovery from recession will be sluggish and there will be negative impact on input demands,” he said.

Rahman said US external commitments in ventures like climate change fund and Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) will wane, and the underdeveloped countries dependent on those funds could take a hit.

“As these funds will be low-priority for the US, the aid from those funds will plunge,” he said.

Rahman said that there may not be any immediate impact on the country’s Balance of Payment (BOP); however, if US demand falls there could also be some problems with regard to BOP.

The economist also warned of a possible negative impact if credit rating agencies like Moody or S&P downgrade US sovereign debt rating from the coveted AAA+ rating.

“The cost of borrowing would increase for US if the credit rating drops and that could again make global investors lose their faith in the dollar,” he said.

Abu Ahmed, professor of Economics at Dhaka University, said the increase in US debt ceiling will increase US inflation, which is already very high.

“The confidence in US dollar as a reserve currency will aggravate as an impact, and our forex reserve is all about US dollars,” Ahmed said.

The blow on dollar as a standard forex reserve currency is already being felt as many countries are shifting to gold and other currencies to use as reserves.

“The impact will be felt throughout the world. For India and China who has over trillion dollars of reserves, there is a much severe problem. Now the world is slowly moving to use gold as reserves,” Ahmed said.

Bangladesh Bank recently bought some gold for reserve, but a second thought should be given on other currencies to use as reserve, Rahman said.

He said the debt deal did not raise the taxes so there would be a possible investments surplus for US entrepreneurs and that might be a boon.

Bangladesh’s exporters also remained skeptic about any positive outcome from the eleventh-hour debt deal as they feel a hike in lending rate in the USA and demand contraction, as a result of declining purchasing capacity of US consumers, will hurt exports.

“The orders from the US are decreasing already. There is no intimation or confirmation on orders,” Abdus Salam Murshedy, president of Exporters Association of Bangladesh, said.

The US market is the largest importer from Bangladesh; if purchasing power of the US consumers goes down, the exports will take a hit, Murshedy added.

Bangladesh exports apparel items worth over $5 billion, nearly 25 per cent of the country’s total exports, to the USA.

RMG industries need more technology integration

Posted in Bangladesh, Business, Dhaka, Economy, Export and Import, RMG and textile, Technology by Sherpa Hossainy on July 30, 2011

Published in The Independent on 21 July 2011

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Bangladesh has to shift to modern tech-based industries for making superior quality ready made garments to sustain its exports growth rate, the commerce minister said on Wednesday.

“We need to rev up our ready made garment (RMG) production, using high-end machinery to achieve exports target,” said Faruk Khan, minister for commerce.

Ready made garment exports target this fiscal year is set at $22 billion, while the sector earned $17 billion in the last fiscal. The total exports earnings target this fiscal is $27 billion, up from $23 billion in the previous one.

To maintain the high growth, RMG industries need to improve their product’s standard and manufacturing technology, he added.

Khan admitted that the nagging power and gas crisis is hampering the industries’ output, but expected that the problems will be over with the upcoming new electricity connections.

The minister was speaking at the inauguration ceremony of 12th Textech Bangladesh 2011 International Expo, organised by Conference and Exhibition Management Services Ltd (CEMS) USA in association with CEMS Bangladesh at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka.

The Textech expo showcasing latest textile garment technology and machinery will be held till 23 July. Nearly 450 exhibitors from over 16 countries are taking part in the exhibition.

The 9th Dye+Chem Bangladesh 2011 Expo, an international exhibition on dyes and speciality chemicals, and 5th Dhaka International Yarn and Fabric Show, an exhibition of overseas yarn and fabric, are also being held along with Textech.

The exhibition will be open for trade business visitors only everyday from 10:30am to 7:30pm, upon registration at the expo venue.

CEMS Global’s Textech, Dye+Chem and yarn/fabric exhibitions are an international series of exhibitions organised in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Singapore and Sri Lanka.

Md Harun Ur Rashid, president of Bangladesh Grey and Finished Fabrics Mills and Exporters Association, said that the exhibition gives industry owners opportunity to get acquainted with state-of-the-art manufacturing machinery.

“I bought $700,000 worth machinery last year and I’m planning to buy machinery worth $1 million this time. I can get machines here at 4 to 10 per cent cheaper rate,” Rashid said.

Faruque Hassan, vice president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said that Bangladesh needs to produce high-end garments, fabric and yarn as the global demand for high-end products is rising.

He said the newly relaxed generalised system of preferences (GSP) rule from the European Union, Japan, Norway and Switzerland is a great opportunity for RMG sector to export more.

Prospective markets in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and South Africa will also boost RMG exports in the future, Hassan added.

RMG sector marked a remarkable growth rate of 43 per cent this fiscal year and constitutes nearly 78.15 per cent of the total exports. Bangladesh is also the second largest importer of cotton yarn and fabric in the world.

Meherun N Islam, president and group managing director of CEMS Global USA and Asia Pacific, said, “These exhibitions assemble worldwide technology, machinery and material manufacturers and will help local manufacturers to appraise the latest available technology.”

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DFID to provide fund to improve textiles sector

Posted in Bangladesh, Business, Dhaka, Finance, RMG and textile by Sherpa Hossainy on June 8, 2011

Published in The Independent on 4 June, 2011

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The UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID) is going to fund a three-year project aiming to explore sustainable innovative practices to improve the textile sector’s competitiveness, which will eventually help to add value to its products.

The development partnership in higher education project (DelPHE) will bring together London College of Fashion (LCF), BGMEA Institute of Fashion and Technology (BIFT) and United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) to deliver a research scheme between Bangladesh and the UK.

“The project will form a strong dialogue between the job and the education sector that will create relevant industry training programmes and develop new curriculum,” said John T Smith, national coordinator of UNIDO, and one of the project managers.

The study will be based on the future challenges of sustainable fashion and apparel companies in the UK and Bangladesh, he added.

The project is managed by a team of international and local experts: Lynne Hammond from London College of Fashion, Munira Rahman, national coordinator of UNIDO and Rushmita Alam, head of fashion at BIFT.

Smith said: “The industry is evolving to higher value-added products through improving functions like fashion design, reducing lead time and improving compliance with health and safe working condition.”

DFID has invested up to £3 million a year in different countries in the DelPHE project, which aims to enable higher education institutes to act as catalysts for poverty reduction and sustainable development and contribute towards the UN millennium development goals.

Textiles sector in peril

Posted in Bangladesh, Business, Dhaka, Economy, Export and Import, RMG and textile by Sherpa Hossainy on June 6, 2011

Published in The Independent on 5 June, 2011

Read the article on Independent website

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Bangladesh’s textiles sector is under a grave threat arising from the European Union’s adaptation of new rule and rising cotton prices in the international market, cautioned textile mill owners on Saturday.

The new rules of origin (RoO), adopted from January 1 by the European Union (EU), fixed single-stage processing instead of two-stage as a condition to enjoy the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facility for the least developed countries.

The two-stage processing meant the garment makers had to purchase fabrics from the native country. But under the new rule they can import fabrics from other countries and still attain GSP facility, which gives their products duty-free access in the EU.

“Now the ready made garment (RMG) exporters can purchase low-priced woven and knit fabrics from China and India, because those countries have their own cotton production,” said Jahangir Alamin, president of Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA).

According to the National Board of Revenue (NBR) statistics, the imports of woven and knit fabrics went up respectively by 88.34 and 32.35 per cent, during January-March 2011 period.

Alamin also blamed unprecedented rise in cotton prices in the international market for the textile sectors’ waning competitive edge. The cotton prices in the international market hit a historic high of $2.19 on March 7 this year, while the prices were $0.95-$1.10 per pound in August-September last year.

He also said the textile mills’ production capacity has decreased by 35-40 per cent for the relentless gas and power crisis.

The BTMA president said 70 per cent of the total capacity of manufacturing mills is currently unused because of lower export orders and local demands.

“At present the spinning mills has a yarn stock of over 200,000 tonnes, worth over Tk 8,000 crore ($1.1 billion),” Alamin said.

According to fabric manufacturing mill owners’ information, more than Tk 2,000 crore ($285.7 million) worth export orders could not be taken, which shifted to other countries.

The BTMA president said the new GSP criteria might seem to have benefited the RMG makers, but the long-term growth potential of RMG solely depends on the textiles sector.

“Eighty per cent of all yarns and fabrics produced by this backward linkage industry are exported to the EU countries in the form of RMG. If the textiles sector does not survive, there is no chance of the RMG sector to survive either,” Alamin said.

“There is a national and foreign syndicate who are sabotaging to destroy our promising textiles sector,” the BTMA president alleged.

“Our main competitor China and India are providing strong policy support and cash incentives for their textiles sector, which creates a 15-20 per cent price disadvantage at the onset,” he said.

Moreover, China and India’s market manipulation and anti-dumping policy is also hurting the textiles sector, he added.

Alamin said the government has failed miserably to provide any support and the existing incentives are insufficient to offset the rising price disadvantages.

The BTMA president proposed a seven-point demand to the government to save the textile sector.

The demands included: increasing the existing cash incentives from 5 percent to 15 per cent, fixing income tax rate at 10 percent for the primary textiles sector companies, extending tax holiday facility till 2015, removing all taxes and duties on polyester and viscous staple fibre to encourage diversification and reduce dependency on cotton, following Turkey by taking safeguard measures to discourage imports of raw materials of RMG sector, removing taxes and duties on the chemicals used in effluent treatment plants and fixing bank interest rate down to a single-digit.

Alamin said in the past three years there had been no new investments in the textiles sector, which boasts existing investments worth over Tk 30,000 crore and where almost 10 million people are involved.

“If these problems persist, let alone new investments the existing ones would be wiped out and creation of new employment would become impossible,” he said.

In the first ten months of the current fiscal year the export earnings were $15.07 billion, where primary textiles sector’s contribution was $9.06 billion. The contribution of the textiles sector is more than 80 percent of the total export earnings of the country.

High interest rate and energy crisis hampering jute and textile industries

Posted in Bangladesh, Business, Dhaka, Economy, Export and Import, RMG and textile by Sherpa Hossainy on June 4, 2011

Published in The Independent on 3 June, 2011

Read the article on The Independent website

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The apex trade body of the country on Thursday pointed out high interest rates and energy crisis among others as major bottlenecks for the growth of jute and textile industries.

Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) President AK Azad said, “18 per cent interest rate is a major hurdle for the growth of textile industries.”

He was speaking at a seminar on ‘Problems and prospects of jute and textile sector: Bangladesh perspective’ at the FBCCI conference room in Dhaka.

Abdul Latif Siddiqui, minister for textiles and jute, was present as the chief guest, while Md Ashraful Moqbul, secretary of the textiles and jute ministry, TD Mitra, chairman of Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC), Jahangir Alamin, president of Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA), were also present.

“Many spinning mills are closing down because of energy crisis and high interest rates. If the rate can’t be brought down to at least 13 per cent, this industry will not survive,” Azad said.

In the fiscal year 2009-10 the textiles sector earned $12.5 billion through export earnings, which is $15.07 billion in the first ten months of the current fiscal.

The FBCCI president said that despite posting an impressive growth the local textiles industry is under threat as EU has adopted the single-stage generalised system of preferences (GSP).

However Azad said jute sector is currently in a favourable position after long being in a state of despair. Jute and jute-goods export earnings were $925 million in the first 10 months 2009-10 fiscal, which is 42 per cent higher than the previous one.

Raw jute saw a 70 per cent growth in export earnings and jute-made goods marked a 45 per cent rise.

“Bangladeshi jute mills export 90 per cent of their products, whereas Indian jute mills only cater to the domestic market,” the FBCCI president said.

Azad said the jute sector will be in peril if the local market does not expand. He commended the efforts of the government in making the use of jute-made goods mandatory in the fertiliser, cement, textiles and construction sector.

Bangladesh is now the second largest exporter of jute and jute-made goods in the world.

Citing the 41 per cent rise in exports this fiscal, Azad said it is an encouraging figure but the import costs are rising and our economy is becoming dependent on RMG exports and remittance.

“We have to focus on other sectors and attract foreign investments,” Azad said.

The minister asked the FBCCI president to list all their demands and provide it to him so that he can submit it to the finance minister before the next budget.

Textile minister calls for a united force

Posted in Bangladesh, Business, Dhaka, Economy, Export and Import, RMG and textile by Sherpa Hossainy on May 16, 2011

My second event coverage published in The Daily Independent on May 16, 2011.

Read the report on The Daily Independent website

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Minister for Textiles and Jute Abdul Latif Siddique  on Sunday urged the textile and garment entrepreneurs to unite under one umbrella to enjoy a better hand while bargaining with foreign buyers.

“The root of all problems is the lack of co-ordination among the entrepreneurs, who belong to different strata of society and have units with different production capacity,” Siddique said.

The minister was speaking as the chief guest at the launch of the ‘Better Work in Textiles and Garments (BWTG) component of the Better Work and Standards Programme’ (BEST) project of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) at Hotel Pan Pacific Sonargaon.

He urged Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Associations (BGMEA), Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), and Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) to stop creating rifts and form a collective bargaining cell.

“All the bodies representing textile and garment sector should outline a joint bargaining unit to fix uniform prices for their productions. Rather than becoming self-centred we have to sacrifice for our country. Then we would not need discussions like these in small rooms,” the minister said.

The minister also advised to eliminate the internal market rivalry before competing internationally.  “We should resolve our own issues. We have to get rid of this internal divide and conflict.”

Currently, Bangladesh is the fourth largest garment exporter in the world and exports from textile and garment contribute to 82 per cent of the total exports. Exports in the first nine months of the current fiscal year (July’10 – March’11) were $13.2 billion. The sector also employs 5 million people of which 70 per cent are women.

Siddique also snubbed any sign of looming danger on the textile and garment industry and expressed hope that Bangladesh would become a major player in this sector globally within the next 10 years.  “We have to concentrate on technology. If we can become proficient in using information technology, we would be able to bargain and the industry will flourish.”

BWTG is a joint project of Ministry of Textiles and Jute and the Ministry of Commerce, funded by the European Union (EU) and Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD). It is focused on improving the effectiveness of the textile and garment sector in Bangladesh.

John T Smith, international coordinator of BWTG-BEST, Jean-Jacques Lauture, first counsellor and head of Good Governance, Human Rights and Economic Cooperation of European Commission, Ashraful Moqbul, secretary for Ministry of Textiles and Jute, Md Shafiul Islam, president of BGMEA, MA Zaher, vice-president of BTMA, AH Aslam Sunny, vice- president of BKMEA, and David Yuen-Hoi Lee, project manager, BWTG-BEST, UNIDO-Vienna, also spoke in the occasion.

Exporters push for special economic zones (Urges single-digit lending rate)

Posted in Bangladesh, Business, Dhaka, Economy, Export and Import, RMG and textile by Sherpa Hossainy on May 14, 2011

My first business report for The Daily Independent (published May 13, 2011).

Read this on The Daily Independent website

Digital print edition

Exporters yesterday urged the government to set up special economic zones, especially in the underdeveloped northern region in a bid to develop the country’s economy.

“We are proposing to the government to set up at least three to four economic zones in the northern part of the country, which will result in an industrial balance,” said Abdus Salam Murshedy, president of the Exporters Association of Bangladesh (EAB).

He was speaking at a press conference on budget proposals at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel, organised by EAB.

EPZs are given many facilities like tax exemption and continuous utility services but other industries are not getting those — this is creating an internal competition, said Murshedy, former president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

In the budget proposal, EAB also urged the government to bring down the banks’ lending interest rate to a single-digit.

“After the withdrawal of the lending cap of 13 per cent, the interest rates now depend on bank-client relationships, some are gaining advantages while others are not,” the EAB president said.

He said the banks are taking various additional charges like service and monitoring charges, which is making the total interest rate climbing up to 18-19 per cent now.

“Small and medium industries will not be able to survive the competition with 18-19 per cent interest rates. I don’t think there is any industry, anywhere in the world, which was viable after giving 18 per cent interest rates.”

Other demands on the budget proposal of EAB were: bringing source tax down to 0.25 percent from 0.40 per cent, exemption from VAT against utility charges, interest-free cash incentives, duty-free diesel and furnace oil, exemption from PSI inspection of capital machineries and spare parts, allotment of funds for human resource development, unified dollar exchange rate for all exporters and tax exemptions for sub-contractors.

Murshedy also asked for prioritised new connections of gas and electricity as government plans to provide new utility connections from June.

“There should be at least 25 per cent of the total electricity generation allotted for the export-oriented industries,” Murshedy proposed.

He said jute and shipbuilding are promising sectors and those should be provided with proper policy support and cash incentives to help them thrive. The EAB president urged the government to fulfil all their demands so that the country can dig out of the impacts of the ongoing global recession.

Murshedy said: “Even after facing all the difficulties, our total exports are almost $35 billion now. If the government supports us, it’s not going to be difficult to increase the exports to $50 billion, even with our existing infrastructure.”

Safi Ullah Chowdhury, vice president of EAB, Md Saiful Islam, president of Leathergoods and Footwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association of Bangladesh, Faruque Hasan, vice president of BGMEA, AH Aslam Sunny, vice president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, and Jahangir Alamin, president of Bangladesh Textile Mills Association, were also present.

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