Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) has urged apparel factory owners to close their factories under the current situation if they do not have orders available.
BKMEA President AKM Salim Osman came up with this directive through a statement on Wednesday noon. He also requested to keep all the factories closed today and tomorrow.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association has also issued a similar directive verbally.
The coronavirus transmission will be lesser if public gatherings can be lower. So, there is no need to bring workers in factories if it not required. If a worker of a factory catches the virus, the factory itself along with nearby factories and even the entire area can be put under lockdown, he said.
"The government has not reached a final decision yet over the closing of apparel factories. You [factory owners] can continue operation on your own responsibility if you deem it necessary," Nasim Usman said.
"We have to realise that coronavirus is a pandemic now. Many developed countries across the world are trying to stem it by enforcing lockdown and shutdown. We cannot decide on closing the entire sector right now as it is the country's biggest foreign currency earner. A curfew or a lockdown in Bangladesh can be declared anytime," he added.
Selim Osman said the readymade garment factories can run on a smaller scale by closing knitting and dying sections if necessary to avoid losses. In that case, appropriate health security has to be ensured to keep workers safe from the corona infection.
They will try to get supports from the government to overcome losses caused by the coronavirus impact, the BKMEA president said.
They will submit the estimation of losses incurred by the factories to the government to this effect, he added.
After from submitting info on orders which have been cancelled and put on hold, the member organisations have been requested to send details on wages of employees, and estimation of water, gas and electricity bills as soon as possible, he said.
All government and private offices will remain closed from March 26 to April 4. The factories can be kept closed during those 10 days if they do not have much work. But the factory owners have to ensure that workers get pays on time, he added.
RMG export orders worth $2.58 billion cancelled or held up
Global buyers have so far cancelled or held up orders of readymade garment products worth $2.58 billion from Bangladesh due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Bangladeshi exporters said the value of cancelled and held-up orders would increase further as they were getting notices to cancel orders or delay shipments every hour.
According to BGMEA data, a total of 936 readymade garment factories informed the trade body that the order cancellation and held-up notices they have received till on Wednesday were worth $2.58 billion, affecting 1.92 million workers.
"This will have serious consequences as we see an imminent liquidity crisis that will cause financial disruption for the manufacturing units," said BGMEA President Rubana Huq.
"The RMG sector pays Tk4000 crore in salaries every month but is now facing difficulties to arrange this amount under the current situation. We welcome the prime minister's latest announcement of Tk5,000 crore in a bailout package for export-oriented industries," Said Rubana Huq.
Italy, Spain and France and some other European countries declared nationwide lockdowns as the countries took sweeping measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Following the lockdowns, major brands in Europe, including Primark and Inditex, shut their stores in the countries.
Later, major retailers in North America such as Nike, Under Armour, Lululemon Athletica, Lands End, Columbia Sportswear and Gap announced closure or reduction in store hours of all outlets in the United States and Canada amid a rise in the number of coronavirus cases in the countries.
The pandemic broke out in China in December last year and has now spread in 196 countries across the globe.
A total of 39 people have tested positive for the virus while five others have died in Bangladesh till on Wednesday .
Bangladesh's apparel exports, which have witnessed a 5.71 percent negative growth in the first eight months till February of the current fiscal year, are poised to decline further.
Of the $34 billion worth of garments Bangladesh exported in the fiscal year 2018-19, over 60 percent were shipped to European nations. The next biggest buyer – the USA – is also facing the menace of the virus, which has prompted the government to declare emergency in some states.