• Unsold shoes worth crores of taka in large factories
• Shoes produced cannot be marketed due to lockdown
• The price of raw material has also gone up due to lockdown
• Covid-19 caused about Tk20 crore in the industry last year
The month of Ramadan is considered as the peak season of the footwear industry and the production and marketing usually go on in full swing in the factories but this year, even in the peak season, the footwear industry of Brahmanbaria is set to incur losses.
Like last year, this promising industry has collapsed in the clutches of Covid-19 and the owners have to count losses as they cannot market a huge amount of unsold products, piled in warehouses, due to the lockdown.
So, they have demanded reopening of shopping malls including footwear shops in compliance with the health rules so that they can sell their products and pay wages and bonus to their workers ahead of Eid and can recover the losses incurred last year.
Footwear wholesalers from different parts of the country come to Brahmanbaria. There are 150 footwear factories, including 16 automated ones, in the district where the price of shoes ranges from Tk60-Tk400. About 3,000 workers are making a living by working in footwear factories in the district.
Traders in the districts have talked about two main problems amid the Covid-19 pandemic – high price of raw materials and lack of wholesale buyers.
The crisis started at the end of March last year. The owners closed the factories under government instructions due to Covid-19. Later, when the factories reopened in June last year, shoe production fell by about 40% as not all workers resumed work as well as the demand in the market was low. Consequently, the financial loss to the industry last year was around Tk20 crore.
The footwear industry, which was hoping for a better future, has been facing a new crisis since April this year. Shoes produced cannot be marketed due to the transport crisis and the closure of shops due to lockdowns. There are unsold shoes in many factories.
According to the traders, during Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha, the big factories sell shoes worth Tk1-1.5 crore and small ones sell shoes worth Tk20-25 lakh.
Md Rafiq, a fitting man at Active Pew Footwear, has been working for almost 30 years. He earns Tk15,000-20,000 per month and runs his six-member family.
"I used to work all night before the month of Ramadan but since last year I have not got enough work. I fear that I would not be able to earn the extra money during Ramadan," he said.
Active Pew Footwear owner Md Rakibur Rahman said, "My factory lost about Tk30 lakh last year. I hoped to make up for that loss this Eid season but the losses are increasing as raw material prices have risen due to the lockdown.
"I have unsold shoes worth around Tk1.5 crore. As a result, shoe production has declined. If this situation continues, I have to close the factory," he added.
Kazi Shafiuddin, the president of the Brahmanbaria District Footwear Industry Owners' Association, said, "The demand for our local shoes is already declining in the market due to foreign shoes. In this situation, Covid-19 has created a new crisis in the industry. If the situation does not get under control and the lockdown continues, traders will suffer huge financial losses like last year. The government should pay attention to this indigenous industry."