- 800 hosiery production units in Pabna now
- More than 10,000 workers employed
- Apparel makers had been using locally produced yarn until 1990
- They then switched to RMG wastes, or jhut
- Hosiery Items worth Tk4cr used exported every day
- But exports have now been suspended for pandemic
There has been a change in raw material sourcing for apparel making in Pabna – a western Bangladesh district on the banks of the River Padma that had earned a reputation in men's hosiery vest-making back in the colonial period.
In the district, apparel makers had been using locally produced yarn until 1990, and then switched to readymade garment wastes, or jhut, as raw materials.
The changeover has added t-shirts, baby garments and winter clothing to the production basket. The products are now going to overseas markets and fetching home around Tk4 crore per day.
The shift to raw material sourcing took place due to a supply crunch of yarn, hosiery hub switching from Pabna to Narayanganj and the emergence of Bangladesh as a readymade garment powerhouse.
The history of Pabna's hosiery industry goes back to the British era. The district then would supply the apparel items across India. After the partition of India in 1947, West Pakistani business groups such as Adamjee came to this district of the then East Pakistan to engage in the hosiery trade.
They would manufacture yarn and sell it to local hosiery units, mostly the cottage industries. But the poor road infrastructure and costly transportation forced the yarn makers and hosiery businesses to shift to Narayanganj.
Subsequently, Pabna's local hosiery-makers who did not go to Narayanganj faced a raw material supply crunch. Sourcing the yarn from Narayanganj would also lead to a push-up in production costs, eventually resulting in the slow and gradual death of the Pabna-based hosiery industry after 1971.
In 1990 and later, the struggling hosiery units started making apparel items with cheap readymade leftovers produced in the garment factories in Dhaka and its adjacent areas.
Poor and middle income people embraced the cheap fabrics as hawkers sold them on trains on the north-western and south-western rail routes. Subsequently, wholesalers from the northern and southern districts began flocking to Pabna for the apparel items.
Pabna hosiery industry leader Monir Hossain said there are more than 800 production units in Pabna now, with more than 10,000 workers employed in the sector.
He said items worth at least Tk4 crore used to be exported to India every day through the land ports. Demand for the items usually goes up in winter but exports have now been suspended due to the pandemic.
Another hosiery entrepreneur, Irad Hossain Ratan, said workers in the sectors are in trouble owing to the pandemic-led business slump.
Hosiery workers usually get daily wages. If they remain absent or the factory is closed, it means no income for them on that day.
Jhut trader Mojibur Rahman said the production units and backward linkage industries that supply the raw material and other accessories have also been facing the pandemic blues.