The government is planning to introduce an industrial zone-wise weekly closure in a bid to cope with the energy crisis, as factory owners fear the move may intensify their burden to keep the production units up and running amid the power crunch.
"The authorities expect to save power consumption of 490MW to 500MW each day with this measure," Nasrul Hamid, state minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, said on Sunday after a meeting with business leaders at Bidyut Bhaban in the capital.
"At present industries remain closed only on Fridays. But we want different closure days in different industrial areas," he added.
Nasrul Hamid also said it will be possible to provide uninterrupted power supply across the country from October by importing more gas and increasing power generation.
Many factory owners and investors, however, fear they will still face production loss. They said that the businesses are already overwhelmed after the gas and oil price hike followed by power and gas supply shortage.
"The garment industry is reeling under two-pronged pressures. On the one hand from gas and power shortages and on the other hand, declining consumer demand due to inflationary pressures in key export destinations of the garment industry," BGMEA acting president Shahidullah Azim said.
"Now with the increase in the price of fuel, the system of generating electricity with its own generator has also become expensive.
Therefore, it is now challenging for the industry to ship exports on time," he added.
He requested to keep the captive power plants out of the scope of fuel price hike to relieve the garment industry from additional pressure in the current context.
Al Shahriar Ahmed, managing director of Adzi Trims Ltd, said a rationing is a good move, but it should be considering the power demands of industrial zones in Savar, Ashulia, Gazipur and Narayanganj.
Shahriar, also a director of Bangladesh Garments Accessories and Packaging Manufacturers and Exporters Association, requests for a future guideline on power supply to alleviate concerns among the businessmen.
Officials of Meghna Group, the country's top consumer goods producer with more than fifty factories, said they need to keep their factory units open 24 hours and 365 days.
Taslim Shahriar FCA, General Manager at Meghna Group of Industries said, "Almost all our machines have to be running all the time. Once a machine is turned off, it takes two or three to get it back to normal. As a result, the workers have to keep open 24 hours in shifts. Now if one day a week is closed, the overhead will increase."
He said that it is not possible to shut down any machinery of heavy industry for a temporary period. Many machines take 8-10 days to warm up to normal temperature. As a result, heavy industry and consumer goods industry should be exempted from the factory closure schedule.
Machineries like VRM, heater, re-rolling at the heavy industries like ceramics, steel, glass and cement cannot shut once it started operation.
Mohammed Amirul Haque, managing director and CEO of Premier Cement Mills Limited said, "The order to keep factories off once a week will not actually bankrupt the country, but we will surely go bankrupt."
N Mohammad Group, a plastic product manufacturing company in Chattogram, produces 80 metric tons of different types of plastic products every day.
The factory owner is worried about the announcement to close the factory in the rotating day-off scheme system and power rationing as its production has been disrupted due to load shedding for a few months.
Mohammad Nazrul Haque, managing director of N Mohammad Plastic Industries, said "Due to power outage, the equipment of the factory was about to be damaged. The cost of keeping production running with generators has also increased. Meanwhile, the cost has increased due to the increase in oil prices. On top of that, this decision to close the factory one day a week under the rationing system will further intensify the crisis."
Mahbubul Alam, president of Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that if uninterrupted production in the factory is interrupted, the industrial owners will incur losses.
"If losses become heavy, it will be difficult to keep the factory running. If the rationing system keeps the factory closed for one day in a week and load shedding hit on other days of the week, then this initiative will fail. So it should be ensured that there is no load shedding on the days of operation of the factory."
The decision to close factories for one day in a week under the rationing system will lead the country's garment sector to a difficult situation. Production is already being disrupted on a daily basis due to load shedding. As a result of the closure of the rationing system including weekends, the factory has to be closed for 8 days in a month.
He also said, as a result of this decision, garment factories will not be able to produce garments as per the schedule. As a result, there is a fear of losing customers, so the owners will also suffer losses. If this situation continues, there will be no other option to close the factory.
Some factory owners including tannery, jute, leather, and local clothing, however, said that there will be no impact of the area wise once a week factory closure for them.
Mr Dilip Kajuri , DMD and CFO, Apex Footwear Limited said, "We are normally closed one day a week. If the government schedules it, it should be closed accordingly. The production will also be normal."
Earlier on 18 July, the government announced one-hour load shedding across the country as part of an austerity measure to reduce foreign currency spending by limiting energy consumption.
The government also halted electricity production at all diesel-run power plants and directed closure of shops and markets by 8pm daily.
Jasim Uddin, Abbas Uddin Noyon and Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury contributed to this report