The country's only yearly international trade fair is coming back at a new venue after a one-year gap amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The gate of the Dhaka International Trade Fair is set to open on 1 January 2022 at the Bangladesh-China Friendship Exhibition Centre at Purbachal instead of its traditional venue at Agargaon of the capital.
According to organisers, this year's fair will have comparatively fewer stalls and pavilions than previous years as fear of new Covid variant Omicron continues to grow. Participation of international organisations will also be lower.
In 2020, when the fair was last held, the trade fair saw 483 pavilions and stalls, while this year the number has dwindled down to 225, according to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), organiser of the fair. There will be six stalls and four mini pavilions by foreign organisations.
Business entities from 21 countries took part in the last Dhaka trade fair. But, due to the coronavirus situation worldwide, the number of foreign organisations have declined this year.
"South Korea, India and Turkey are directly participating in the fair. In addition, organisations from many countries are participating through local agents. [Organisations from] Brazil wanted to come as well, but could not come due to the coronavirus outbreak there," EPB Secretary Md Iftikher Ahmed Chowdhury told The Business Standard (TBS).
He said authorities will be on the lookout to ensure that no one is selling products at extravagant prices.
According to EPB sources, business organisations from Iran, Thailand, and Pakistan will partake in the fair through their local representatives.
Visiting the venue premises on Wednesday, this correspondent saw that all kinds of work including the construction of the main entrance gate and stalls were going on.
Those involved in the construction works said that most of the existing work will be completed before the inauguration of the fair.
The Bangladesh-China Friendship Exhibition Centre, built at a cost of Tk817 crore, comprises a total of 33,000 square metres of floor space. The auditorium inside the exhibition building has a cafeteria that can serve at least 500 people at once.
Apart from business stalls and pavilions, there will be food courts, restrooms, and a playground for kids at the fair. EPB's Iftikher hopes the number of visitors this year might surpass the last fair as this years' venue is comprised of a permanent building and provides an open environment.
"There is also a river nearby. Many will be able to come to the fair and walk around," he said.
Ticket and time
The gate of the international trade fair will open at 10 am every day and close at 9 pm, except for government holidays when the fair will run till 10 pm. Every adult visitor will have to pay Tk40 for entry tickets while for minors the ticket price has been set at Tk20.
"The main goal of the fair is to attract foreign buyers," said Iftikher, although he fears their number might not be too great due to the coronavirus.
"Foreign buyers will start coming to the fair from the second week. Our local entrepreneurs usually get a lot of buying orders from foreign buyers," he added.
To ease transportation to the fair, the government has taken several initiatives, including deploying 30 BRTC buses which will run from under the Kuril flyover to the fair from 8 am to 10 pm every day. A visitor will need to pay Tk25 for each trip.
EPB Secretary Iftikher said BRTC has promised to increase the number of buses to 50 if needed. In addition, all BRTC buses hauling from Matijheel will go to the venue via Kuril.
He added that there was a concern over the roads, but that has been sorted out.
"A 10 km road to Purbachal has been fixed," he said.
Meanwhile, megaprojects of the country have been adopted as themes for this year's gate at the fair. There are four entrances to the main gate, which has been given a round shape like the Karnaphuli tunnel with a symbolic structure of the Padma Bridge over it. The entrances also have Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, Metrorail as symbolic structures.
The Dhaka International Trade Fair was first held in 1995. Over the years, it has grown into a popular medium for local entrepreneurs to familiarise their brands