Long hyped as the next most potential sector after readymade garment industry in terms of export, the leather and leather goods sector of Bangladesh had to face slowdown lately due to a host of reasons.
However, the fate of this sector could soon transform following the Government’s move to form a high-level task force to identify the problems and the way forward for the development of the leather sector.
As per media reports, the 29-member committee incorporating all parties, ministries of industries, commerce, environment, forest and climate change, fisheries and livestock, labour, the National Board of Revenue (NBR), Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) and trade bodies of the sector will be formed to foster greater coordination.
The Cabinet Division reportedly issued a gazette notification on 2 October in this connection, which underlined, “The task force will scrutinise the overall situation of the leather sector, identify the problems and recommend the way out.”
It may be mentioned here that according to some experts, the sector has the potential to touch US $ 10 billion in exports by 2025. However, to achieve that Bangladesh has to improve compliance, protect labour rights and obtain international certification, feel the experts.
“It is possible to export leather and leather goods to the tune of US $ 10 billion by 2025 as we have a lot of comparative advantages,” observed M. Abu Eusuf, Professor of the Department of Development Studies at the University of Dhaka participating in a programme at Asia Foundation in Dhaka recently.
As per reports, Bangladeshi tanners are forced to sell tanned leather at 40 per cent below the international rates due to poor compliance and working conditions in the leather sector as well as lack of the Leather Working Group (LWG) certification.
As per Government data, export earnings from leather and leather products saw a negative growth of 5.06 per cent during the first quarter of the fiscal year, 2019-20. Bangladesh fetched US $ 254.39 million in July-September period of the fiscal ’20.
The proposed task force will reportedly be tasked with preparing guidelines to achieve international compliance and standards following the environment law and related rules of the country besides exploring the potential world market and adopt plans to encourage new innovation and business start-ups and best practices.
“…It will help to address the issues, if any, within the shortest possible time,” maintained Chairman of the Bangladesh Tanners Association (BTA) Shaheen Ahmed on the high-level task force while interacting with the media.
Financial support, compliance, products and market development and diversification are amongst the major challenges facing the sector currently, underlined the BTA Chairman.