The Bhairab area of Kishoreganj has a large number of footwear factories, and their shoes are sold across the country. But producers do not get a fair price for their products because of a poor distribution system.
They are forced to sell products to middlemen at low prices, and that affects both producers and consumers. At the same time, it is a barrier to the development of a promising industry.
On top of that, the factories are scattered across the area, and this is having a serious impact on human health and on the environment.
This information came to light through a survey by students of the Dhaka School of Economics.
There are 8,000 factories in Bhairab. Students from the Department of Entrepreneurship Economics of the school visited a number of them at Kamalpur in Bhairab on Saturday
An initial report of the survey said that the small factories have been set-up in an unplanned manner. The people who work there have limited technical knowledge and hence cannot make quality products. Furthermore, female workers are paid very low wages.
These entrepreneurs have no option but to sell their products to middlemen at a low price. They get between Tk1,000 and Tk1,500 for every 12 pairs of shoes.
Whereas, every pair of these shoes sell for between Tk300 and Tk600 in the capital and elsewhere across the country. Most of the profit goes into the pockets of middlemen.
The survey found that the entrepreneurs have no concept of the detrimental effects of the raw material they use. They are unaware that the leather waste, plastic and foam being used or discarded are health and environmental hazards. The workers handle this material without using safety gear.
Furthermore, the factories dump their untreated waste under the open sky, thereby causing serious environmental pollution.
The coordinator of the Entrepreneurship Economics Department, Professor Dr Mohammad Mahbub Ali said, "The footwear industry is still small, but has been developed without proper planning. The entrepreneurs have no vocational knowledge and no idea about supply chain management."
He added that this is benefitting middlemen. "The government should develop the industry properly. It will help the local industry to grow, and will create employment and eradicate poverty."