The brick manufacturing business in Brahmanbaria has been going through a tough time since March due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The industry has incurred a loss of around Tk50 crore so far, according to businessmen. The losses are mounting every day as the business has not been able to turn around as yet.
Md Bahar Uddin, director of Messers T and C Bricks, said, "More than 150 workers work in our brick kiln. All of them went back home when the coronavirus crisis started. In October, some workers returned to work. But the brick market is still dull as the situation is yet to improve."
A large count of bricks made before the pandemic worth Tk16 lakh still remain unsold. Bahar is not sure whether those will be sold.
"If the situation does not become normal, we would not be able to do the business in this season too," said Bahar.
According to the brick makers, workers of brick kilns take their wages for a whole season from the owners in advance. Despite taking the money in advance, the workers had stopped working since March due to the pandemic. So, no kiln could produce any brick over the period.
On the other hand, the demand for bricks in the market is still very low as most of the construction works remain stopped due to the pandemic.
That is why, though workers started to join the work from October, the production of bricks did not increase.
According to the Brick Manufacturing Owners Association, currently there are more than 100 brick kilns in the district.
October-June is the peak season for the brick business while the rest of the year brick kilns remain closed due to monsoon. However, brick manufacturers could not do the business even in the entire peak season this year.
Meanwhile, they had to bear all the maintenance costs, including the space rents. Besides, they had to repay the loans taken from banks and individuals.
Abul Foyez, proprietor of Shoshoi Bricks, said, "My brick kiln suffered Tk50 lakh in loss due to the crisis. The workers did not work even after taking their wages in advance. That was why the production was very low in the last season.
"Though the brick kiln had been closed for a long time, I had to bear the maintenance cost. Now the new season has started and the workers are returning to work, but there is no demand for bricks. So, we cannot go for full production."
Nasir Mia, owner of Sumon Bricks in Nabi Nagar upazila, said bricks worth Tk20 lakh remain unsold in his brick kiln. He has faced a loss of Tk15-Tk20 lakh.
Azizul Haque, president of Brahmanbaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry and also general secretary of the Brick Manufacturing Owners Association, said all types of business have suffered due to Covid-19 pandemic. Brick business is also dull as most of the construction work remains stopped.
Brick industry has faced approximately Tk50 crore in loss so far. If the coronavirus situation improves, the business may turn around, he also said.
But there is no way to recover the losses the sector has already faced, he added.