Apparel buyers and exporters have expressed fear they will incur massive losses if on-time shipments cannot be ensured due to the government-announced 14-day harder restrictions slated for start on the 23rd of this month, which will require all industrial units to remain shuttered.
Buyers are worried that shelves at their stores will become empty while exporters stare at increased air freight charges due to disrupted shipments.
For the same reason, factories might miss a significant amount of work orders for the forthcoming spring and summer seasons.
Industry leaders have said if the government does not allow them to run factories after the Eid holidays, payment of workers' wages for the next month will be affected as factories will remain closed for the next three weeks.
They also fear that the government's move to ease lockdown restrictions for a week might cause the Covid-19 situation to further deteriorate in the coming days as millions of people would go to their village homes during that period to celebrate Eid.
The Cabinet Division on Tuesday announced that the strict restrictions imposed on the first day of this month would be relaxed for a week from the 14th to facilitate trade and economic activities centring the holy Eid-al-Azha.
A stricter lockdown will resume from 6am on 23 July and will be put in force till 5 August midnight.
BGMEA President Faruque Hassan said, "All buyers are concerned over probable shipment disruptions due to the restrictions. They are observing the situation. If factories remain closed, they may cancel orders."
"Today, I discussed this issue with five secretaries and requested them to allow factories to resume production after the Eid vacation."
"Now the matter depends on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Hopefully, we will get positive news by tomorrow (Monday), as the cabinet secretary has a scheduled meeting with the prime minister on the day," said the BGMEA president.
On Thursday apparel makers sent a letter to the prime minister seeking her directive to exempt apparel factories from post-Eid strict lockdown.
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.
Fatullah Apparels CEO Fazlee Shamim Ehsan said fearing shipment disruptions amid the lockdown, many of his buyers have asked him to send goods through air freight. "If I have to do that, I will suffer a big loss."
"On the other hand, buyers may demand a discount if any exporter fails to send goods on time. And there also remains the risk of shipments being held up," added Ehsan who is a vice president of the BKMEA.
Ehsan said due to the post-Eid lockdown, he has requested a French buyer to allow late shipment of an export order of 60,000 jackets – scheduled to be shipped by 5 August. But the buyer has asked to send half of the order within the deadline, he added.
Expressing his frustration, Ehsan said, "I have no idea how to produce these goods and ship them during the shutdown. If I fail to do so, they must demand a discount or withhold the order."
Urmi Group Managing Director and BGMEA Director Asif Ashraf said every buyer is concerned about a likely shipment disruption due to the lockdown as they have returned to the business after a long time and most of their stores are empty now.
DBL Group Managing Director MA Jabbar said buyers have emailed them to ship goods on time.
He also mentioned that last year was the worst time for their business. "If we fail to send products timely, they will face big losses as they have dependency on us for Bangladesh's being the second largest apparel supplying country.
Echoing Jabbar, Denim Expert Managing Director Mostafiz Uddin said buyers have already reminded him to ensure timely shipment of goods.
The post-Eid restrictions might cause his company to miss shipping of exports worth about $1 million.
"Now, we have work orders to the full of our production capacity. If factories remain closed, we will face a very tough situation as we will have problems maintaining shipment schedules" he added.
He also expressed concern over increased costs to send the export goods through air freight if he misses to ship them as per schedule.
"The airfreight cost of a $1 million worth of products will be about Tk4 crore," he added.
"We are just looking at the narrow side of the restrictions' impact. This is that production will be hampered. But, it will also affect the image of the country."
This is the peak time to receive orders for the next session. Those orders may go to other destinations if factories remain closed in Bangladesh, said the Denim Expert managing director.
"If we fail to receive orders, we will have to incur a loss of Tk10 crore every month as the operating cost of my factory," he continued.