The waste material of the ready-made garments industry, locally known as "jhoot", has given new vitality to the hosiery industries of Pabna that lost their glory during the 1990s.
Around four thousand hosiery factories have been set-up in Pabna Sadar and surrounding areas that depend on jhoot, the ragged by-products of garments factories.
Barik Hossen Jony, president of the Pabna Hosiery Manufacturers Group, said, "The hosiery industry of Pabna was on the brink of collapse because of a lack of raw material and the necessary workforce. But the waste by-products of ready-made garments factories has given the industry a new life."
"Products like Sando genjis (sleeveless vests), t-shirts, women's trousers, made in these factories are being exported to India, Malaysia and many countries in the Middle-East and Europe. These exports are worth more than Tk150 crore per year," he said.
"Around 50 thousand people are employed in these factories," he added.
The hosiery industry boom has created job opportunities, especially for female workers of the area. Many of them previously worked in garments factories based in Dhaka, and had to live away from their families.
Rabeya Khatun, a woman hosiery worker, said, "I used to work at a garments factory in Dhaka. I lived there alone and earned barely enough to cover my essential expenses."
"But now I am living with my husband and children, and I earn Tk14,000 to Tk15,000 per month," she added.
Many people have transformed their lives by investing in the hosiery industries of Pabna. Now many of them own reasonably large factories.
"I started with a capital of Tk4 lakh and five workers. Now 35 people, both male and female, work in my factory. We buy "jhoot", the waste material of ready-made garments factories in Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj, and make different products from them," said Rasheduzzaman Russel, a hosiery businessman.
Another businessman named Md Ratan said, "The number of hosiery factories is rising in Pabna because the products made in these factories have a good demand."
But there are many obstacles, he said, including lack of capital in this sector. He said that the industry will develop further if investors are given low-interest loans.
Barik Hossen Jony, president of the Pabna Hosiery Manufacturers Group, said, "India is an illegal destination for Bangladeshi jhoot. This has been creating a shortage of raw material for the hosiery industry in Pabna."
"If the government stops the smuggling of jhoot to India, and reforms the export law, we will be able to send our products to many more countries," he added.
Ali Mortuza Biswas, vice-president of the Pabna Chamber of Commerce and Industries, said, "We have communicated with the ambassadors of many countries for the expansion of the hosiery industries of Pabna. They have given a positive feedback. The Pabna Chamber of Commerce will help in the export these products."