Md Mohsin Mia Modhu, mayor of Sreemangal Municipality, set up a large food factory in his upazila to materialise his dream of establishing a top-class industry in Moulvibazar district where tourism is the only noteworthy industry.
He established the factory named "Healthy Choice" at Isobpur area of the upazila with an investment of more than Tk100 crore, where Tk80 crore is a bank loan.
He started infrastructure construction at the beginning of 2018 and completed it at the end of 2019. The plan was to start full-fledged production from the beginning of 2020 and market the products all over the country simultaneously.
However, the coronavirus outbreak has dealt a heavy blow to the plan.
The machines, imported from China and Italy, were set to be installed by the engineers from those countries by the end of December last year. But they could not come due to coronavirus. As a result, the pricey machines are not operational now.
Also, the employment of around 4,000 people has been placed on hold. At present, production is limited to only 10 percent of the target.
The human resource department of the company said the recruitment process of around 2,000 workers was underway, and around 2,000 employees were to be recruited in the marketing department across the country.
The recruitment process will start immediately after the coronavirus situation normalises. Now, only 120 workers are involved in the production process.
Engineers and workforce
The equipment - brought from China and Italy- are automated. So, there has been an agreement with the Chinese and Italian suppliers that they will train the local operators after installing the machines.
Kazi Abdullah, manager (Sales and Marketing) of the company, said, "Foreign experts will come to install and train our local workers once the coronavirus situation improves. But before that, we have to prepare our workforce."
But the recruitment process has been halted due to the Covid-19 outbreak, he said.
The factory has been built on 15 acres of land. After opening, it will be the first factory in Sreemangal upazila of Moulvibazar. No large factories have ever been established in this area.
Healthy Choice also will create a remarkable number of job opportunities. Now, only a few employees have been recruited, added Kazi Abdullah.
"Before the outbreak of Covid-19, we published recruitment notices for various positions in the factory. But we could not complete the process," he said.
Mentioning that coronavirus has created another threat for them, he said, "We do not have skilled managers or operators to work in the factory. Experts were set to arrive from Dhaka or other industrial areas. But now, because of coronavirus, no one from
Dhaka or Chattogram is interested in participating in the recruitment process."
Md Mohsin Mia, director of the company, told The Business Standard that he started the project in 2018.
"Construction was completed at the end of 2019. I have invested over Tk100 crore here. Of this investment, Tk80 crore is a bank loan. The liability is increasing every day as the factory cannot go into production," said Mohsin Mia.
He is not sure when the factory will be in full-fledged operation as it is not only about the coronavirus. Recruitment of human resources is the other key challenge for him, he said.
"There are no skilled or trained operators in the localities to operate the machines. We also need to provide training facilities to create a skilled workforce for such industries. Only then will we be able to go into production," he said.
Mohsin Mia wants to create employment opportunities for the unemployed in his locality. Even the local unemployed youths are also hopeful about this factory, he said.
"If I could employ 1,000 workers locally, it will benefit their families as well. If the factory is operational, economic activities will get a boost in this area," said Mohsin Mia, owner of Healthy Choice.
Eight months passed
"Everything is uncertain, and I have experienced ups and downs in my dream project. But we are helpless in the face of coronavirus. It is difficult to say when the new plan will be implemented, but I am optimistic," said Mohsin Mia.
So, I have been continuing to experiment with 120 staff. I want to continue the project for the people of my locality, he added.
The "Healthy Choice" factory has started experimental production of various products, including 100 percent halal chips, chanachur, pea fry, cakes, and wafers.
When it comes to full production, Healthy Choice will produce a wide variety of biscuits.
Sohel Ahmad, factory manager of Healthy Choice, said, at this stage of limited production, the company is focusing on product quality control.
Besides, we have a plan to implement all types of compliance, including hygiene, safety and security, he added.
Sreemangal Municipality Mayor Md Mohsin is determined to build it as an international standard food manufacturing company.
"Our activities were halted during the Covid-19 period. But we hope that the light will come through this darkness. We will always strive to deliver the highest quality food to our consumers," he said.