The first challenge of doing garment business in Bangladesh is investment as bank liability interests are very high. Apparel exports of the country are slowing down, small scale factories are closing and workers are losing their jobs. This situation has arisen because of rising production costs, reduced demand for products and increasing prices of ready-made garments (RMG). Now, these are the big challenges for RMG industry. I am not saying the situation is very bad. But what I want to say that right now Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGEMA) and the owners of RMG companies should be prepared to face the challenges. Because it is difficult to sustain this sector without their concerted efforts and initiatives.
There are problems at Chattogram port in clearing imported goods. After the goods reach the port, it takes seven to ten days to get the items cleared for release. As a result, we are losing the lead time. Besides, the source tax should be minimised.
Government support is needed to grow businesses. Bangladesh's rate of export has fallen by 16 percent in the last four months. On the other hand, Cambodia and Vietnam are taking orders at lower prices. So Bangladesh cannot compete with the aforementioned countries. Everyone's earnest effort is required. Even the workers have to love their companies.
Our largest buyers of garment products are the United States and the European Union member states. Bangladesh is one of the world's top three garment exporters. Bangladesh was able to return to normalcy after the Rana Plaza disaster. We have to be always careful so that such incidents do not occur again.
As a director of Chittagong Chamber of Commerce, I always try to work for the economic development of the country, including the commercial capital Chattogram. I also believe that everyone should work together to utilise Chittagong port to its full capacity and to capture the global market.
Sakeef Ahmed Salam, the author is deputy managing director of Asian Group and a director of Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industry.