Sweater to help reach $50bn export target

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Sweater industry, a sub-sector of ready-made garments, can contribute $8bn to reach the $50bn export target by 2021 when the country will celebrate its 50th anniversary of independence, said Md Moshiul Azam Shajal, managing director of Posmi Sweaters.

Dhaka Tribune: How much does the Sweater sector contribute to achieve $50bn export target by 2021?

Md Moshiul Azam Shajal: Currently, Sweater industry with its huge potentials to grow, contributes $2.8bn to RMG export. If the government provides the manufacturers with facilities to run the stalled factories and thus helps start new ones, the sweater sector will be able to contribute over $8bn to achieve the $50bn export target by 2021.

DT: What are the challenges of manufacturing high-end products?

Shajal: At present, we produce sweaters, ranging prices between $13 and $14 a piece. The key challenges to manufacturing high-end products is lack of raw materials, technical experts and latest technology. The prices of cotton for high-end products are too high while there are a few workers capable to work for high-end products.

DT: How can Bangladesh create skilled workforce to meet the demand?

Shajal: At present, the country’s sweater factories have only 70% capable workforce. The manufacturers feel the need for the remaining 30% skilled manpower to meet the need. There is no alternative to arranging training programme to create efficient workforce.

We are providing training for workers in collaboration with National Productivity Organisation under the Ministry of Industry, Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense, BGMEA, International Training Centre – International Labor Organization (ITC-ILO), Skills for Employment Investment Program, Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) and GIZ.

Posmi already provided training to 414 workers on fire fighting, rescue and first aid and earthquake rescue operation and self-defence.

DT: What are the key challenges to sweater industry for booming the business?

Shajal: Shortage of skilled manpower, political instability, higher bank interest rate, unavailability of gas, electricity connection, cumbersome process of getting a company registered are major challenges for the investors in the sector.

DT: What should the government do to woo investment from the private sector to boost export?

Shajal: There is a huge investment potential in the sector, which will create more jobs to meet Bangladesh’s dream of becoming a middle-income country, but intermittent political unrest dissuades people from taking up new business venture.

For luring private investment, the government has to ensure political stability, low rate bank loan and uninterrupted utility services. To woo large amount loan, the banks have already cut lending rate, but still it is too high despite having huge reserves.

DT: Do the new economic zones and Export Processing Zones (EPZs) help RMG to grow up?

Shajal: Off course, the EPZs are contributing a large volume to export basket and it will continue. To reap the harvest, the government has to implement projects on priority basis and must have space for the RMG sector.

DT: What should the government do to reap the harvest of Sweater sector?

Shajal: The government must have a long-term investment policy under which it will provide all facilities for ensuring investment-friendly environment. The policy should be participatory and unified which will help both RMG and Sweater sectors grow simultaneously.

DT: We have ample reserves, but the investment scenario is week, what should the government do?

Shajal: The government has to ensure proper utilisation of money instead of keeping that idle in the banks. The government should pave the way for investment as it is needed to generate employment.

DT: What should the manufactures do to meet new demands and ensure supply?

Shajal: The demands for Bangladesh’s sweaters are increasing day by day due to their quality. For ensuring smooth supply of products as per the demands, the sector people have to enhance capacity which requires steady investment plan of the government. The manufacturers have also to concentrate on the market and product diversification.

DT: Do you think RMG safety standard has reached a level that can earn buyers’ trust?

Shajal: Now, Bangladesh has achieved safety standard as the global retailers platforms Accord, Alliance and National Initiative led by the government have completed inspection and found only less than 2% factory risky to workers’ safety.

Like Posmi Sweaters, a good number of factories have already installed UL certified fire rated safety doors, sprinklers, fire hydrant and other equipment to ward off safety concerns.

Source: Dhaka Tribune

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