Major businesses in Jashore that came to a standstill due to the Covid-19 pandemic have resumed operations after about a year.
Factories in the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation's (BSCIC) estate, motor parts businesses, residential hotels, and handicrafts makers resumed their activities in February.
The adverse impacts of Covid-19 on the business sector have begun to fade away, said traders of the district.
But the financial losses caused by the pandemic have yet to be recovered. So the businesspeople want to get the government's incentives and loan facilities for one more year.
Mizanur Rahman Khan, former president of the Jashore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, "The district's economy collapsed due to the [novel] coronavirus. Small traders suffered the most. Overall, the district faced a loss of more than Tk1,000 crore."
"However, the wheel of the economy has started turning again as the [novel] coronavirus infection rate has come down and trade has started again in our country. It may take another year to revive the economy. That is why the government needs to extend its cooperation," he added.
Akhter Hossain, proprietor of car parts manufacturer Enayet Engineering Factory, in the industrial estate, said, "We have had no buyers for more than a year. Production of car parts stopped due to a lack of orders. Sales restarted in February this year. Hopefully, if the situation becomes normal, the financial losses will be able to be recovered within a year."
Shyamal Das, managing director of MUCEA Foods, said the business used to export frozen shrimp to 19 countries.
Due to the pandemic, all kinds of trade stopped, he said.
Since February, the company has been exporting shrimp to five countries.
It will take at least one year for the business to turn around, Shyamal said.
Faruk Hossain, proprietor of Medina Metal, said the rims of bicycles produced by his factory are supplied all over the country. More than one hundred people work there.
The business was facing bad time due to Covid-19, but his business activities have resumed now, he added.
Sheikh Mostafa Ali, general secretary of the Jashore BSCIC Industrial Estate Owners Association, said, "All BSCIC organisations have suffered due to the [novel] coronavirus crisis. Now some organisations have resumed their businesses. The BSCIC authorities did not stand by us. They are not waiving any kind of charges. As a result, the owners of industrial establishments have fallen into trouble."
The BSCIC estate was built in 1962 on 50 acres of land in Jhumjhumpur adjacent to Jashore town.
There are a total of 118 units in the industrial city. Of them, 115 units are active.
The factories employ 5,918 workers. Of them, 2,932 are male and 2,986 are female, according to BSCIC officials.
Motor parts business
The motor parts market in Jashore is the largest of its kind in the country.
Benapole Customs, alone, gets Tk2,000 crores in revenues annually from the import of motor parts.
Rezwan Ahmed Murad, owner of Faria Motors in Jashore town, said, "I import large car engines from India and sell the items. Buyers from all over the country come to us in Jashore."
"Before the pandemic, one to two engines were sold every day. But there were no buyers in the last year. We started importing the parts in February this year. Though buyers have started coming again, the business is still dull," he added.
Shahinur Hossain Thandu, president of Jashore Motor Parts Business Association, said Jashore is the largest market for motor parts in the country.
Car owners from different districts of the country go there to buy engines and spare parts. At least Tk3,000 crore was transacted there every year, said Shahinur.
"Motor parts traders are worried about bank loans. They would benefit from incentives for one more year," he added.
Residential hotels in Jashore had a very difficult time last year because of the pandemic. However, since January this year, the hotels have been receiving guests in small numbers.
Yakub Ali, owner of City Plaza Hotel, said, "Customers, in small numbers, have been coming since January. However, it is not enough."
Jashore is known as the centre of Khulna division. It has an airport, the country's largest land port, Benapole, and the Nawapara seaport.
Additionally, the Mongla seaport and Bhomra Land Port are adjacent to the district.
Jashore Airport is used by businesspeople from: Khulna, Magura, Jhenaidah, and Kushtia. As a result, five-star residential hotels have been set up in the region, according to the businesspeople of the sector.
Tanuja Rahman Maya, president of the Jashore District Women's Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the novel coronavirus pandemic hit women entrepreneurs hard.
There are 450 handicraft entrepreneurs in the district. At least 10,000 people work with the entrepreneurs. Almost all the workers became unemployed during the pandemic. However, business is resuming again, said Tanuja.
SAF in Nawapara, an industrial area in Jashore, has been exporting finished leather for 32 consecutive years. The company won the national export trophy four times and exports leather goods worth Tk400 crore annually.
Abul Islam, general manager of SAF, said the business is still going through a rough time as foreign buyers cannot come there.
However, he hopes that orders will start coming in from this month.