Apparel exporters have started producing personal protective equipment (PPE), following the standard set by the government, to boost the safety and morale of health professionals in the fight against Covid-19.
Apparel makers said they received the approval of the Directorate General of Health Services to produce five lakh pieces of PPE under a joint initiative of: the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Pay It Forward, Manush Manusher Jonno Foundation, a British retailer, Arunachal Trust, and Buet Alumni Association.
Production gained momentum after the government approved the design and fabric of the locally-made PPE as level-1 substitute.
Five apparel factories – Urmi Group, Snowtex, Aman Group, Dekko Group and Smartex Group – got the go-ahead. They plan to produce at least five lakh pieces of PPE by April 10 under the joint initiative.
Asif Ashraf, managing director of Urmi Group, told The Business Standard that they do not plan to profit from making the PPE as health professionals need it urgently. "We will only take the raw material charge to buy taffeta fabric."
However, Asif also said the USA is facing a shortage of the World Health Organization recommended PPE. "Already, US buyers are showing interest in our PPE. I hope that the locally-produced PPE will help protect the doctors."
Urmi Group has already produced 1,000 pieces of PPE and distributed 900 to the doctors. It will be able to produce 40,000 pieces by April 10, said Asif.
Snowtex, a leading jacket exporter, also started distributing PPE to hospitals yesterday. "We are looking for their feedback to improve the quality of the safety equipment and gradually distribute it to other organisations and individuals too," said SM Khaled, managing director of the company.
"Initially, we will produce 50,000 pieces. We will distribute 17,000 of them for free: 3,000 through the BGMEA, 5,000 through official of the British retailer, 5,000 through the Buet Alumni Association, and some individually."
"No profit will be made from supplying the rest of the equipment as well. However, the production cost of PPE is around Tk600 per piece. Already some hospitals including Birdem, Kurmitola and Islami Bank Foundation submitted a requisition for PPE."
Chattogram-based Smart Group, which has been making PPE since 2018 for an American buyer, is now making 150,000 pieces of PPE for the government.
The government first placed an order of 100,000 pieces of PPE with the company last week. They already handed over 74,000 pieces of PPE and the consignment of another 26,000 will be delivered today.
When contacted, Muzibur Rahman, managing director of Smart Group, told The Business Standard, "We have the capacity to make 22,000 to 20,000 pieces of PPE every day. We have the required raw material, too, as we have been making PPE for an American buyer."
"When we received the government order, we started delivering PPE to save our countrymen. We also received another order of 50,000 PPE from the government yesterday.
"We do not want to sell it to any private company now. We are supplying it to the government at a nominal price. However, to make standard PPE one must spend $15."
When contacted Abu Tayyab, former BGMEA vice president and managing director of Independent Apparels, told The Business Standard, "We donated around 100 pieces of PPEs to Chattogram Metropolitan Police. Our factory can make 10,000 PPEs per day if we have the raw materials."
MDM Mohiuddin Chowdhury, director and chief executive officer of Clifton Group, said "We are making one million surgical masks. Already we distributed five lakh masks among the people for free. We can make 40,000 masks per day. We have the capacity to make PPEs too but we do not have the raw materials for it."