Fearing massive schedule disruptions and huge financial losses, clothing sector leaders on Thursday sent a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, seeking her directives to allow factories to resume operations after a short Eid vacation.
The letter was handed over to Cabinet Secretary Khandaker Anwarul Islam at a meeting held in the Secretariat on Tuesday afternoon.
The letter was signed by BKMEA President AKM Selim Osman, BTMA President Mohammad Ali Khokan, BGMEA President Faruque Hassan, BTTLMEA President Shahadat Hossain Sohel and BGAPMEA Abdul Kader Khan.
After the meeting, BGMEA President Faruque Hassan said, "We have requested for allowing factories to remain open considering the overall situation. The cabinet secretary also reassured us that he would hold a meeting with the prime minister the day after tomorrow [Saturday] to discuss this issue. A decision will be announced after the meeting."
BKMEA's First Vice President Mohammad Hatem said, "We have not made any demand for a specific date to reopen factories. We have just explained to the Cabinet Secretary the overall industry situation amid the pandemic."
"We also mentioned that if workers go to their villages and return to cities during this long vacation, it may lead to a further spike in Covid-19 infections. This is because most workers come from the northern and southern parts of the country that are identified as red zones."
He expressed hope that the cabinet secretary will explain this matter to the prime minister.
Former BGMEA presidents Abdus Salam Murshedy MP and Siddiqur Rahman, BTMA President Mohammad Ali Khokon, BTTLMEA President Shahadat Hossain Sohel and BGAPMEA President Abdul Kader Khan also were present at the meeting.
In their letter to the prime minister, apparel makers said if factories remain closed for 18-20 days due to Eid holidays and post-Eid lockdown, they might lose the work orders for late summer, Christmas and upcoming winter.
"If export is hampered for a month, the export schedule will be disrupted for six months," the letter reads.
The apparel sector leaders have also mentioned in the letter that in the first 14 days of the current month, the sector exported clothes worth $1.68 billion – averagely about $120 million a day.
The figure was about 28.25% higher compared to the same period a year ago, the letter mentions.
"We believe your timely decision will result in a proper guideline for the export sector of the country. We will accept whatever you decide for us," the garment exporters said in their letter to the prime minister.
The apparel makers also expressed concern about the possibility that buyers might move to alternative sourcing countries despite higher prices there, if Bangladesh's RMG industry is shut down for a long period due to the lockdown.
They also apprehended that the country's export sector might face a tough situation and many entrepreneurs would go bankrupt due to a prolonged factory closure.
The Cabinet Division on Tuesday announced that the ongoing restrictions will be relaxed from 14 July midnight till 6am on 23 July to facilitate trade and economic activities centring Eid-ul-Adha. A stricter lockdown will resume from 6am on 23 July to 5 August midnight.
If Eid holidays are taken together, the industry will have to remain closed for at least 18 days in a row, which apparel exporters say would be too big for them to cope with.