The country's leather exporters are going to be hit hard for the coronavirus outbreak in China, which is their largest export destination, industry players said.
They fear if the situation prolongs, they may face huge financial losses as products amounting to Tk120 crore may end up being stockpiled.
"Around 100 containers of semi-finished leather remain pending for export to China. If the situation there does not improve in the next two weeks, we may face huge losses," said Shaheen Ahmed, chairman of the Bangladesh Tanners Association.
FM Rafiqul Islam, director (technical) of the Dhaka Hides, said they have 15 Chinese buyers who have not been communicating with them since the last week of December.
"We may face a stock lot of leather worth about $1.2 million. We are worried about the development," Islam said.
He said each large tannery may face a stockpile of leather worth Tk10 crore to Tk12 crore if the Chinese holiday, that has been extended till February 17 due to the coronavirus outbreak, lingers on.
Islam estimated that altogether big tanners' losses will be Tk100 crore to Tk120 crore.
Out of the 123 tanneries operating in the leather industrial park at Savar, only 10 to 12 are large and have capacity to store their products. Most do not have adequate storage.
The situation has made them so uncertain that the Dhaka Hides has stopped expansion activities of their factories.
Md Diljahan Bhuiyan, managing director of Bhuiyan Leather Complex, told The Business Standard that he has five Chinese buyers, who have placed orders for about 5 lakh square feet finished leather but at this moment, no one is willing to talk about their product shipments.
It is not only exporters but also raw materials importers who are dependent on China facing the same predicament.
"I export to Europe with 100 percent raw materials imported from China. If the vacation in China gets further extension, we will be in deep trouble," said Jashim Md Al Amin, managing director of the Papella Limited, a leading sport shoe manufacturer and exporter.
Engineer Abu Taher, chairman of the Bangladesh Finished Leather and Leather Goods Exporters Association, said they are uncertain when the situation in China would improve.
He demanded government support immediately, otherwise, many tanneries will shut down and a big number of workers will lose their jobs.
Leather and leather products are the biggest foreign currency earner after apparels. Bangladesh exported $1 billion worth of leather and leather products last fiscal year and this year's target had been set at $1.1 billion.