The emerging light engineering industries in Jashore are witnessing a massive drop in production due to recurrent power outages.
There are about 300 industrial establishments in the region that are prominent for manufacturing auto parts, shallow machines, stone-breaking machines, and other machinery.
Many of them were forced to curtail production within 10 days after nationwide power rationing came into effect on 19 July.
Some factories are running on their own power supply (generator or power plant) to make up for the load shedding, which has increased their production cost by about 30%.
Industry insiders say they were already reeling from a market slowdown during the pandemic and rising costs due to the Russia-Ukraine war. The recent power supply crisis is crippling them financially.
In the last five decades, the automobile industry of the country was entirely dependent on imports. From small machinery to car body (chassis) came from neighbouring India. But that situation has changed. Jashore's auto parts industry is saving foreign currency, and creating new employment.
Jashore city has hundreds of automobile parts manufacturing factories and workshops in different areas including Bakchar, and the Hushtala-Murli intersection.
With more than 5,000 workers, these workshops earn at least Tk10 crore per month by making new bus-truck bodies, refurbishing old bodies, painting, and repairing engines.
Bus-truck owners from all over the country come to Jashore's workshops to manufacture new and old vehicle bodies and parts.
Nuruzzaman Sheikh, the owner of Al-Eklas Holding Workshop in the Bakchar area of Jashore city, said, "Bus-truck bodies and cabins are made in the workshops based on the designs of Korean, Japanese and Indian vehicles. A new body fitted to an old dilapidated car chassis is durable for at least 30-40 years. But periodic load shedding is disrupting our work like never before."
"The owners of Renowned transport companies come to Jashore to buy vehicle's body and engine parts as the cost is lower than anywhere else in the country," said Ashraful Alam, former president of Jessore Automobile Workshop Owners' Association.
"Currently, there is not much business going on here due to economic slowdown. The load shedding has created another problem for us, causing more suffering financial losses," he added.
The owner of Eagle Paribahan, Pabitra Kapuria, said, "Workers in Jashore make quality car parts and bodies. They have skilled automotive workers. We also get car bodies and parts from there."
Md Akhtar Hossain, owner of Enayet Engineering Workshop – one of the car parts manufacturers in Jashore, said, "In 2011, we built a factory on one bigha of land in BSCIC Industrial City. Fifty workers are working in our factory. We manufacture vehicle brake drums, pressure plates, gearbox, brake disc, engine housings, hangers, and gearbox bodies.
"Production in the factory has dropped below half due to 4-5 hours of load shedding. From 6 am to 5 pm, our workers used to melt 5 tonnes of metals, which now reduced to 2 tonnes. If the power goes out while melting metals, they have to be re-melted which is time-consuming and costly. I can't do this anymore," he added.
Kamrul Hasan Sohel, a young entrepreneur who built SK Metal Industry in the Jashore suburbs, said his company produces an average of 2,500 to 3,000 pieces of springs (suspension parts) for pickup trucks per month.
"If we could get uninterrupted power supply, we could expand the market of springs," he said.
Siraj Khan Mintu, a member of the Bangladesh Engineering Industrial Owners' Association's Jashore unit, said, "There are 300 light and heavy industries in the district. Out of these 25 companies are producing heavy industrial products, including spare parts for large vehicles, stone, stone crushing machines, agricultural machinery, power tiller machines, and rice mill machines."
"Goods worth thousands of crores of taka are being produced annually in these industrial establishments. But the power outage is hampering the entire industrial work," he said.
"Jashore's engineering industry, in particular, has been contributing to the national economy for a long time. The auto parts produced by these factories are of good quality. They are facing a crisis now," Mizanur Rahman Khan, former president of Jashore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, urging the government to keep the industrial sector out of the purview of power outages.