Antique ornament business in several Bogura villages including Dharampur and Fulbari is turning around offsetting the coronavirus fallout.
Rural artisans in the north-western district said they used to sell brass, copper and gold ornaments worth Tk6 crore per year in the pre-pandemic period. The sales plummeted to less than Tk3 crore in seven months of the pandemic owing to a sharp fall in demand and spiralled prices of the raw materials.
Now the sales have started to pick up again. "The markets have reopened and the situation is also returning to normalcy. There is a gradual improvement in customer rush and the sales are expected to be good," said local jeweller Mohammad Jibon.
About 16 years ago, some jewellers started making antique jewellery at Dharampur – an outskirt village of Bogura town. Now 13,000 male and female artisans make at least 150 types of ornaments including necklaces, bangles, earrings and nose-rings.
Although ornament prices vary depending on the crafting and jewellery materials, prices of the eye-catching ornaments are mostly below Tk1,000.
The villages supply handcrafted jewellery items to different areas of the country. During the pandemic, order for the ornaments fell to almost zero with a ban on gathering for social occasions such as a wedding.
"Besides, imported copper from India rose to Tk850 per kg from Tk700-750. Meantime brass price spiralled to Tk900 from Tk800," said Dharampur Bazar Shop Owners' Association General Secretary Zakir Hossain.
He said prices of the ornament raw materials are still high and the market shows volatility.
Dharampur Bazar has 237 jewellery shops. According to the shop owners' association, at least 10,000 artisans make the ornaments at their homes adjacent to the market.
Shafiq Gold and Antique Jewelers, the largest business at the market, supplies jewellery products to wholesalers across the country.
The shop owner Shafiqul Islam said the business declined due to the pandemic. Even then, he sold products worth Tk20-30 lakh during this time.
According to the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC), small ventures like the Bogura jewellery would qualify for government stimulus announced to salvage businesses from pandemic losses.
However, BSCIC was yet to receive an application from the ornament makers.
Deputy General Manager (DGM) of Bogura BSCIC Md Jahedul Islam said they would verify application if they receive one from the jewellers.
Meantime, Dharampur Bazar Shop Owners' Association leader Zakir Hossain said they were unaware of the stimulus. However, they would apply for it now.