The global Covid-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the aluminum industry in Chattogram city's Muradpur area. The businesspeople of this sector are incurring losses of Tk60 lakh a day because of factory closures due to the general holidays for the novel coronavirus.
Moreover, many businesspeople will also be in crisis after paying wages to staff and workers despite factory closures. The export of aluminum products has ceased.
Entrepreneurs said on average 20 tonnes – or 20,000 kilograms – of household items made of aluminum are produced in the 80 production-oriented factories in the area every day. At present, about 5,000 people are employed by this industry.
The Aluminum Industry Owners Association was founded in 1989 with 33 members. Although 142 factories remained open in 2010, there are now only 80 production-oriented factories.
Ekramul Haque, general secretary of the Chattogram Aluminum Industry Owners Association, said, "We have closed our factories as per government orders. The condition of many entrepreneurs is very bad. As the production remains stopped and the owners have to pay wages, many members of the association will be in danger due to the capital crisis."
Products made of aluminum worth Tk1 crore, on average, are exported every month to Myanmar, the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. However, due to a lack of production, exports have also ceased, he added.
The association emphasised the need for long-term credit with simple interest rates for the sector to retain its businesses and employees.
Traders said the price of aluminum products per kilogram is Tk300 on average, while the total output of the industry is worth about Tk60 lakh a day.
If the factories are closed till April 14, the total loss is estimated at Tk11.40 crore in 19 days – placing 5,000 workers in danger. However, there is uncertainty as the number of Covid-19 patients is increasing every day in the country, they added.
According to the entrepreneurs, there is a competition for aluminum products with stainless steel, melamine, ceramic, glass, or plastic products. Still, there is a demand for at least 20 types of aluminum products in the kitchen.
Mohammad Gias Uddin, a factory owner, said it was difficult to run the factory in Chattogram due to high production costs. Then there will be a capital crisis due to the extended factory closures and payment of workers' wages. It is difficult to run the factory even when there are not enough credit facilities.
As per the Factory Owners Association, it was decided that the factory's regular staff would receive their full salaries and workers working on a daily basis would get pay of Tk200 per day.
Khatiza Begum – who used to clean household items made of aluminum at the factory – said she used to earn between 250 and 300 per day. However, they now have no income due the factories' closure. She said, "If we get Tk200 per day as per the association's decision, our families will somehow get their daily meal."