Business organisations participating in the Dhaka International Trade Fair, which is going to end soon, fear that they would post losses as the number of visitors at the exhibition has not met their expectations.
Mir Shahidul, owner of Mir Brothers which took lease of the entrance at the fair, told The Business Standard, "I have taken lease of the gate for Tk3 crore, and paid Tk60 lakh as VAT. Considering the number of tickets sold in the last 27 days, I think we will lose Tk76 lakh."
"We expected more visitors this year. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and poor transportation system, there were less visitors," he said.
He said 25 lakh people visited the trade fair held in 2020, but only 4.5 lakh people have visited the fair so far this year.
According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), which organised the fair, the number of stalls at the fair was reduced due to the Covid-19 situation. Besides, the number of foreign companies participating at the fair has also decreased. In 2020, there were 483 stalls and pavilions in the fair, but this year there are only 225. Among them, only six stalls and four mini pavilions belong to foreign companies.
In 2020, the Dhaka International Trade Fair was held at Agargaon in the capital. The fair was not held last year due to Covid-19. This year's trade fair is held in a permanent venue in Purbachal area of the capital.
Khurshid Alam, who came to the fair with his daughter from Sonir Akhra area, said, "If the fair was held in Agargaon, I would visit it three-four times. I used to buy necessary things for the house at the fair. But this year I have visited the fair only once."
Employees of about 20 organisations which participated in the fair told TBS that the number of buyers and visitors was very low from the very beginning of the fair. Most of the people who came to the fair did not buy anything. However, sales increased recently as the fair was nearing its end.
Md Shafiqul Islam, manager of corporate sales of Amanat Shah Lungi, said he participated in the fair mainly for publicity. The company's sales at the fair would not be sufficient for stall rent and workers' salary.
Tawakkal Furniture, which imported furniture from Pakistan for the fair, could sell only two sets of furniture so far . The company's salesman Golam Nabi said they would suffer a loss of Tk5 lakh after bearing all the expenses of participating in the fair.
"Transportation system between the fair and other parts of the capital is poor, so people did not buy furniture, considering the difficulty of bringing those to home," said Golam Nabi.
Md Tafazzain Sarker, assistant general manager of Alloy Group, said, "The number of visitors were good in the first week, but they saw that the road was in poor condition. So, they went home and told others about it. Probably this reduced the number of visitors."
Syed Tanveer Hassan Bappy, assistant manager of sales at Akhtar Furnishers, said this year's sales at the fair have not amounted to 10% of the sales in the Agargaon and he will not be able to pay the workers' salary and stall rent with the profit he made at the fair.
Sabbir Ahmed, in-charge of Walton's mini pavilion, said, "Earlier we aimed to sell products by highlighting their qualities, but this time we have given importance to publicity rather than sales."
"We did not sell much at the fair, but customers bought our products from Walton showrooms near their homes after checking our products here," he added.
On Friday afternoon, the fairground was filled with visitors. Sources said 75,000 people visited the fair till evening yesterday. Most visitors at the fair were not maintaining social distance or following the health safety measures properly.
Asked about the sales and export orders of this year's trade fair, director of the fair and EPB Secretary Md Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury told TBS that he expects to be able to provide this information on the last day of the fair.
EPB could not tell how much export order was received at the trade fair in 2020. However, an export order worth Tk200 crore was received at the trade fair in 2019. Around 50 lakh visitors came to the fair that year.