Global apparel suppliers have started to raise their voice against unethical cancellation and holding up of orders by retailers and buyers amid the coronavirus crisis.
As part of this move, International Apparel Federation (IAF) Secretary General Matthijs Crietee held a virtual meeting with Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Director Miran Ali, and a representative of the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) on Wednesday.
A day ago, Crietee also discussed the issue with Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) Director Fazlee Shamim Ehsan.
Miran Ali and Fazlee Shamim Ehsan represent their respective organisations – the BGMEA and the BKMEA – at the Sustainable Textile of Asian Region (STAR) Network.
Sources said such discussions will continue in order to find out a solution to the current issues.
The STAR Network, a platform of apparel exporters in Asia, has also raised its voice against unethical buying practices by global buyers.
Nine textile and garment business associations from six Asian countries are members of the STAR Network. The countries are Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Myanmar, Pakistan and Vietnam.
"We have had discussions about setting up a study group to analyse the overall situation," said Miran Ali, director of the BGMEA.
Apparel exporters want to make STAR Network a multi-county platform, Miran said, adding that if any single country raises its voice against global buyers' buying practices, its businesses might be affected; but establishing a regional platform would strengthen them to raise their voice against force majeure.
Amid the pandemic, the STAR Network earlier urged the global brands, retailers and traders to follow responsible purchasing practices amid the Covid-19 crisis.
The buyers have been asking for maintaining ethical practices and compliance in the RMG industry for long, but most of them are not following the terms of RMG purchasing orders during the pandemic, said Fazlee Shamim Ehsan, also a director at the IAF, an association that has operations in 60 countries.
Most of them are not paying their suppliers as per their contract, putting pressure for discounts and offering devalued prices in new orders, he added.
"We are discussing among the members to take initiative to prevent such unethical practices," said Ehsan.
Asking for anonymity, one the largest denim textile factory owners shared a bitter experience with The Business Standard. He said, "A brand asked us to join an online bidding offering us a price at least 20 percent below the costing price of fabrics. How could we take such orders?"
"In normal times, most representatives of such buyers used to confirm an order by calling me on telephone after placing the order, however, the pandemic has changed their behaviour."
"Now they call us to join online biddings to get a small quantity of order," he added.
The denim textile has been supplying over 60 million yards of fabrics with a reputation for over a decade. The textile makers also having nominations from about 20 leading retailers include Inditex, H&M, Walmart, Levi's and M&S.
"Now we textile millers, garment makers and accessories suppliers are looking to run our units with affordable prices instead of making any profit," said the textile miller.
He, however, expressed his hope for a better future if they can survive the next six months as he expects the pandemic situation will improve within this time.
Another leading garment exporter alleged that almost every buyer is now putting tremendous pressure on suppliers to reduce prices of products. As a result, they have been forced to leave some Procurement Orders (PO), he added.
According to the BGMEA, about $2.97 billion worth of apparel items orders have been cancelled and withheld after the Covid-19 outbreak.
Currently, most factories are running with 55 to 60 percent production capacity. Over 400 garment factories have been shut down because of a lack of orders.