The printing and publishing sector has lost businesses worth Tk4,000 crore – a third of its market demand of Tk12,000 crore – due to Covid-19.
Also, about 5 Lakh people – directly involved in this sector – are having a tough time due to the loss of livelihoods.
So, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) on Thursday sought the government's financial and policy supports for the survival of the sector.
The business leaders made the call at the DCCI organised webinar "Covid-19 Outbreak and Bangladesh's Publishing Industry: Crisis and Way Forward."
DCCI President Shams Mahmud moderated the discussion while its former president M A Momen and stakeholders of the sector joined the webinar.
Shams Mahmud urged the government to provide support to all the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) – even to the ones with no bank accounts. "Cash flow in businesses is a big challenge now."
The DCCI president also said that the government did a great job by announcing a stimulus package of Tk20,000 crore for the SMEs. "But the micro, small, and medium entrepreneurs who do not have regular dealings with the banks are being deprived of the loan facility."
However, the capacity of the country's printing and publishing sector is increasing gradually, M A Momen said.
"But the annual turnover of Tk12,000 crore in the sector has taken a Covid-19 hit. And the main challenge for it is now to survive."
Momen also urged the government to take measures to safeguard the import substitute manufacturers.
The closure of educational institutions has led to a sharp fall in normal demand for printing materials, DCCI Vice President Mohammad Bashiruddin said adding that the micro-entrepreneurs now need an incentive for their survival.
Bashiruddin also called for reforming duty structure, removing the complexity of duty draw-back system and highlighted the importance of planning for creating a skilled workforce in this sector.
Conducting comprehensive research on the printing and publishing sector is necessary to find out the actual loss in the sector that happened due to the outbreak, Academic and Creative Publishers Association of Bangladesh President Farid Ahmed said.
"A long-term policy framework is also needed to make the sector sustainable."
Around 35 crore academic books published by the local printers were delivered to the students by early January, Printing Industries Association of Bangladesh President Shahid Serniabad said.
"But the printing sector of Bangladesh is well capable of printing 100 crore academic books in a year."
The market demand has fallen and about 70 percent sales have dropped due to the outbreak, Bangladesh Paper Importers Association President Md Shafiqul Islam Bhorosha said while calling for a rational distribution to the entrepreneurs from the stimulus package.