Sweet manufacturer Arjun Modok from Mymensingh is usually busy making a huge amount of sweets at this time of year – on the eve of Pahela Baishakh. However, he is very upset at present because his production has been halted due to the country-wide lockdown to curb the Covid-19 outbreak.
Every year he produces around 10,000 kg of sweet products during Pahela Baishakh, but this has decreased by 95 percent this year.
"Every year I sell sweets worth almost Tk8 lakh during the Pahela Baishakh festival, but this year the festival has been cancelled to maintain social distancing because of the Covid-19 outbreak. Both my employees and I are badly affected," said Arjun.
As a preparation for Pahela Baishakh, Arjun produced 500 kg of sweets, especially sugar toys, batasha (a small round white sweet product made of sugar), etc before the lockdown started. However, he had to stop all production following the government directives. All his nine employees have been a burden for him.
The scenario of the sweet industry across the country is no different.
Sweet manufacturers say that around 50,000 sweetmeat shops have been closed across the country since March 26 as all production has been halted because of the lockdown. The situation became worse after the Pohela Boishakh festival was cancelled.
Every year the festival brings a big opportunity for sweet manufacturers to boost their sales. Last year, from 20 to 25 sweet items worth Tk100 crore were sold in the capital alone.
"We can cope with a pause in production for 5-10 days, but nobody knows when the situation will end and we can start again. We are going to face an unfortunate time," said Mohammod Ali, former president of the Bangladesh sweet manufacturing association and also the managing director of Muslim Sweets.
He estimates that Dhaka-based sweet manufacturers alone have already faced a loss of Tk30 crore minimum.
"Though there is no scope for production and sale, businessmen have to take responsibility for their employees. The government must look after the sweet industry because, without government incentives, there is no way out for the industry," he added.
He further mentioned that some companies that have a variety of products apart from sweetmeats can cope with the current situation. However, those that rely only on sweets manufacturing have been severely affected.