Wheels of the whole economy have stopped turning with the onslaught of Covid-19. Export businesses have been hit hard. And this has stopped the cement export completely.
Bangladesh recorded a sizeable fall of 13.1 percent, to $29.49 billion, in total export earnings during the first 10 months of the current fiscal year, shows the Bangladesh Export Promotion Bureau data.
The cement industry earned an export revenue of $8.06 million in the first nine months of the current fiscal year. However, there were no export earnings from this sector in April due to the nationwide general holidays.
So at the end of ten months of this fiscal year, cement exports remained stuck in the place where it was a month's earlier. But the government's export target for the sector, in the current fiscal year, is $10.54 million.
MdShahidullah, vice-president of the Bangladesh Cement Manufacturers Association (BCMA) and also the managing director of Metrocem Cement Ltd, told
The Business Standard, "The Covid-19 crisis has triggered the enforcement of general holidays here and lockdown in our neighbouring countries. With this, the demand for cement has fallen by 90 percent. This has brought the cement production and export to a screeching halt."
"Large construction projects have stopped. Even then, some construction work is going on in the suburbs, namely in the countryside. So some companies are producing small quantities of cement. However, they are not using more than 20 percent of their production capacity."
According to BCMA data, most of the cement exported from Bangladesh goes to India, namely to its northeastern states.
Also, Bangladeshi cement is popular in Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, the industry insiders said.
MI Cement accounts for 50 percent of the country's total export.
Bangladesh exports 90 percent of its cement to India.As the rupee depreciated against the dollar, cement exports to India fell by 20 percent year-on-year.
And now things have got worse.
MdShahidullah said, "Our competition with the Indian companies has grown. And because of the coronavirus, we are going through new experiences. But we have to think about a way out of this situation."
BCMA sought incentives from the government to weather the Covid-19 storm. It also sought a six month's relief from paying utility bills and taxes.
MdAlamgirKabir, BCMA president and also vice-chairman of MI Cement, said, "There is no quick escape from this situation. Only 10 percent of factories are open now. Cement exports have stopped. When it comes to the next six months, we are just thinking about survival. And we also sought the government's support."
"Now the demand for cement has almost come down to zero. Due to the general holidays, 49 ships with plenty of raw materials have remained stuck at the port. This is another problem for us."
The overall production capacity of the cement sector crossed 62 tonnesagainst the demand of 34 tonnes, shows BCMA data.