- Price of one bell yarn rose to Tk32,200 from Tk18,000-20,000 3-4 months ago
- Expenses including transportation cost, labour salary, electricity bill add to traders' burden
- Machine-made towels are grabbing the market gradually
The woven towel industry in Gazipur's Kaliganj upazila is facing an existential threat due to rising raw material prices, labour crisis and a lack of bank loans.
Entrepreneurs said many factories are facing closure due to the crisis as the owners are changing their profession after failing to survive in the competitive market.
Towels manufactured in weaving looms in different villages of Gazipur's Kaliganj upazila have a market all across the country including Dhaka, Chattogram and Narsingdi. Around 200 factories have been producing towels in these villages for 60 to 70 years. Around 10,000 to 12,000 people are employed in these factories.
Towel producers say the business is not profitable now due to rising prices of different raw materials including dye, powders and yarns.
Besides, the price of machine-made towels is lower than that of loom-made towels. So, the market for these towels is now in a slump. Many workers are changing jobs due to low wages. As a result, many factories are being closed due to a crisis of skilled workers.
They requested the government to reduce raw material prices, provide uninterrupted electricity and long-term interest-free bank loans to keep the towel business afloat.
Mohammad Sharif, owner of Zarina Textile, said, "The price of one bell yarn was Tk18,000-20,000. For the last 3-4 months, the price has gone up to Tk32,200. Besides, there are various expenses including transportation cost, labour salary, electricity bill. In this situation, it has been hard to continue production."
"I am struggling to pay salaries to 27 workers of my factory. I have no savings. Now the factory has to be run with high interest loans from various NGOs," he said.
Ashraful Islam, owner of another factory, said, "Towels from Kaliganj are mainly sold at wholesale prices in Babu Bazar, Sheikh Char, Narsingdi, Narayanganj and several other places. They are later spread to remote areas of the country by traders."
"I sell 2,000 pieces of towels of different sizes every week from my factory. Each towel is sold at a wholesale price of Tk100 to Tk150 depending on the quality, while at the retail level it is sold at Tk200 to Tk250. Even though the retail traders get a good price, we factory owners are not able to make much profit," he said.
Towel factory workers say their wages are much lower. That is why many of them are giving up their ancestral profession. They are now trying to get a job in different mills to get a good wage.
Borhan has been working in a towel factory for 21 years. He said, "The factory I work for is going through a difficult time due to different reasons including rising raw material prices. Growing up it has now reached a stage where the owner cannot stand it. As a result, we are not paid regularly."
"I work here on a weekly contract. My wage is Tk3,000 per week. However, that also depends on production. I have been here for many years so I cannot leave this job," said Borhan.
SM Tariqul Islam, deputy commissioner of Gazipur, told The Business Standard that the district administration is taking various steps including government support for the benefit of traditional towel industry.
"The UNO (upazila nirbahi officer) has been instructed to help the traditional towel factory owners in Kaliganj. The government has already announced easy loans with incentives for small and medium entrepreneurs. We will help them in this regard so that they can take loans on easy terms from the nearest banks," said the deputy commissioner.