After a week-long lockdown that started on 4th April, to stem the spiralling cases of COVID-19, Bangladesh has reportedly extended the same by another one week. Even in terms of apparel exports, there’s yet to be a strong turnaround even as export of knit products continue to perform well.
However, these have not stopped some players in the readymade garment and textile sector from pumping in new investments and going for expansions. If some are enhancing their capacities in products that are in high demand owing to the pandemic, like the personal protective equipment (PPE), for some others it’s in the regular product categories but with an eye on sustainability.
To start with, one of the leading business conglomerates in Bangladesh, BEXIMCO recently opened its US $ 100-million PPE park in Savar where the leading company will produce personal protective equipment (PPE).
The new facility shall help manufacturers, buyers, retailers, brands and the Government with required services since all the services will be available under one roof encompassing European, American and other global regulatory standards, stated BEXIMCO CEO Syed Naved Husain at the inauguration ceremony, while adding, “This should help us realise our vision of seeing Bangladesh as the largest manufacturer and exporter of PPE products.”
The park will serve both domestic and international markets and is aimed at increasing the diversity of the supply of PPE, ensuring that it is not totally dependent on any one country, he said while hosting the event, while underlining that BEXIMCO has steadily contributed to Bangladesh’s meteoric rise as a manufacturing hub in South Asia.
“I am delighted with the new development since it would place Bangladesh on the world’s PPE manufacturing map,” said an elated BEXIMCO CEO.
According to statement issued by BEXIMCO in this regard, the PPE park converts granules to melt-blown as well as laminated fabrics in different weights even as the fabric is later used to manufacture isolation and surgical gowns disposable sterile and non-sterile, reusable isolation gowns, N95 cup type and foldable type masks, surgical masks, disposable scrubs, woven and knitted shoe covers and head covers, reusable scrubs with water repellent treatment.
As per reports, the 25-acre park is an advanced fully-vertical PPE manufacturing facility, the construction, certification and starting production of which (the site) reportedly took around six months.
It may be mentioned here that BEXIMCO Group, through its new BEXIMCO Health division, has agreements to supply PPE, including masks and protective gowns, to major US healthcare service providers.
The Centre of Excellence PPE lab — Intertek and BEXIMCO have developed the PPE Centre of Excellence at BEXIMCO Health in the PPE Industrial Park in Dhaka — has a covered area of 12,000 square feet with major sections of physical testing (respiratory analysis), chemical testing and micro-biological testing, ensuring that it meets the regulatory and quality assurance requirements of PPE manufacturers across Bangladesh.
It may also be mentioned here that this is Intertek’s (Intertek is a 130-year-old leader in testing) most advanced PPE lab capable of testing all levels to comply with the US, EU and UK standards.
The quality assurance prowess of Intertek has helped the cause immensely since it tackles the regulatory issues and has further cemented our relationship, said the BEXIMCO CEO while US Ambassador Earl R Miller while inaugurating the park said that this was not the first time BEXIMCO had risen to the challenge of a disrupted supply chain.
This shows that Bangladeshi enterprises have the capability to move beyond just apparel items, reportedly stated Earl R Miller while adding that it also demonstrates the ability of the Bangladesh labour force to produce goods meeting the exacting standards of the healthcare industry.
It may be mentioned here that last year, at the height of the first wave of the pandemic, BEXIMCO had pivoted from apparels to PPE, learning the specialised fabrication techniques, setting up production lines and producing 6.5 million gowns for distribution in the United States through the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Meanwhile, in separate developments, M/s Shasha Garments Limited is investing US $ 5 million in Dhaka EPZ to establish a RMG unit even as H.R Textile, a high-value apparel manufacturer for European markets, plans to expand its capacity in sustainable production and a variety of products while another renowned business conglomerate Deshbandhu Group has set up two garment units at Uttar Khan in capital city Dhaka at a cost of Taka 250 crore.
Shasha’s investment of US $ 5million in Dhaka EPZ will be the company’s investment in the fourth industry in the EPZs.
In presence of BEPZA Executive Chairman Major General Md Nazrul Islam, an agreement to this effect was signed between BEPZA and Shasha Garments Limited at BEPZA Complex in Dhaka not so long ago.
Md Mahmudul Hossain Khan, member (investment promotion) of BEPZA and Parveen Mahmud, Managing Director of Shasha Garments signed the agreement on behalf of their respective organisations.
The company will reportedly produce annually 6.75 million pieces of men’s pants, women’s pants, boy’s pants and jacket annually and thereby create employment opportunities for around 2,000 Bangladeshi citizens even as H.R Textile, a high-value apparel manufacturer for European markets, plans to expand its capacity in sustainable production and a variety of products even as it underlined that its new facility will increase its annual turnover to Taka 365 crore from the current Taka 225 crore.
To this end, the company – a sister concern of the Pride Group, a leading apparel exporter in Bangladesh – will invest Taka 80 crore, raising the funds from the capital markets with zero-coupon bonds even as according to the projection of the textile mill’s board of directors, the new facility will increase its annual turnover to Taka 365 crore besides, it will help create about 1,500 fresh jobs above the current employment of about 2,500 people at H.R Textile.
Talking to the media, H.R Textile Director Professor Mohammad Abdul Momen said, “We plan to expand our capacity in sustainable production, as global buyers are moving towards more environmental-friendly products in terms of consumption of energy, water and chemicals,” while adding that in this regard, the textile factory has a plan to convert its existing chemical effluent treatment plant (ETP) to a biological ETP, to make it more environment-friendly.
“Our business also plans to install some latest technologies and machinery to make it a more efficient production centre,” said Professor Abdul Momen while adding, “We are producing high-value products for summer and winter. That’s why we have full orders all year round.” He went on to further underline that the company can meet 100 per cent of buyer requirements with its own fabrics in line with a variety of products even as its enhanced capacity will help the company offer some diversified products to existing buyers to boost its turnover.
It may be mentioned here that according to the financial report from April to June last year, the company’s revenue increased by 28 per cent, despite the 66-day general holidays from March 26 even as it went on to pay a 10 per cent cash dividend to shareholders for the last fiscal year while its revenues rose by 18 per cent to Taka 138 crore in the first half of this fiscal year.
Now talking of expansions, another business conglomerate Deshbandhu Group has recently officially launched the operation of two garment factories at Uttar Khan in Dhaka.
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi inaugurated officially the operations of the 100 per cent export-oriented Southeast Sweaters Ltd., and GM Apparels Ltd., even as the business conglomerate has set up the garment units at a cost of Taka 250 crore.
As per reports, the Accord-certified factories, which have created around 3,000 jobs for garments workers, will be able to produce 9 million pieces of sweaters, worth US $ 50 million, per year.
The sweaters will be produced at 800 automatic machines in the factories and Bestseller, Primark, Next, Tesco, Mango and Matalan are the major buyers of the company while earlier, the group had also established Deshbandhu Textile Mills Ltd., at Uttara Export Processing Zone in Nilphamari as well.
Presently, Deshbandhu Group has everything from sugar mill, cement industry, fertiliser factory, shopping mall, shipping, textile mill, readymade garment factories, polymer, consumer, beverage, captive power plant, housing, and logistics to media.
The new investments by the entities, if at all, is perhaps indicative of the fact that the present glut is not going to linger for long and, it’s just a matter of time before things go back to normal in the apparel export front again.