Bangladesh is renowned world over as an apparel manufacturing hub that caters to global brands and retailers across the globe. One industry which has long been taking rapid strides towards growth and development to emerge as a strong ally to the country’s garment sector in increasing exports and foreign earnings is the leather sector of the country.
Long-vaunted as the most promising export-oriented sector after the readymade garment sector, leather industry seems to be coming to its own now! If industry insiders are to be believed, leather sector of the country is now inching closer towards the goal of earning US $ 5.0 billion a year through exports.
“The leather industry is striding towards the goal to export US $ 5.0 billion by the year 2021, owing to seamless development and the cooperation from the Government,” underlined Nanda Gopal, Director of Trade & Exhibitions Pvt Ltd. at the opening ceremony of the Leathertech Bangladesh-2018 held in November 2018.
Organised by ASK Trade & Exhibitions Pvt Ltd. in association with Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leather goods & Footwear Exporters’ Association (BFLLFEA), Bangladesh Tanners Association (BTA), Bangladesh Paduka Prostutkarak Samity (BPPS), and Leather Engineering and Technology Society (LETS), more than 300 exhibitors from nearly 20 countries participated at the event, which is seen my many as a testimony to Bangladesh’s growing prominence in the leather and leather products sector internationally.
“In this edition the show has expanded in terms of both size and scope. This implies that the investment to catalyse the upgrade and development of the country’s leather industry has increased,” underlined Tipu Sultan Bhuiyan, Managing Director, ASK Trade & Exhibitions Pvt Ltd.
The Government on its part is also not lacking either in providing the kind of support the sector would need to emerge as a catalyst to the country’s growth and economic development. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on her part has ensured setting up two modern tanneries in Chittagong and Rajshahi as well as an exclusive leather industrial zone with all modern facilities if voted back to power.
“If I am elected I will construct the industrial zone and tanneries. And if I am not elected you make sure that the new Government executes the plan,” reportedly maintained Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina while addressing the leaders of the leather and leather products manufacturing sector.
The Government has reportedly already asked the officials concerned to find out a suitable place for the industrial zone while also urging the authorities of the newly established Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to keep an area in every zone particularly for the leather industries.
It may be mentioned here that in 2017, the total value of leather and leather goods exports from Bangladesh stood at US $ 1.2 billion, accounting for 3.54 per cent of the country’s total merchandise exports. The industry’s contribution to total output or gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated to be 0.35 per cent. Total employment in the industry in 2016 was 129,000 — up from 91,000 in 2013. During the same period, the industry’s share in total employment rose from 0.16 per cent to 0.22 per cent. Further, the leather export sector has a strong backward linkage in terms of using mostly locally sourced raw materials, giving it a further edge.
Given the right kind of atmosphere, policy support and technical knowhow, experts believe the leather industry has the potential to emerge as strongly as the readymade garment sector, which besides propelling the country’s economic growth would also lend a helping hand in employment generation.