Issues related to power and gas have long been amongst the major issues faced by the readymade garment and textile sector of Bangladesh. Gas and power crisis have been a regular phenomenon till not so long ago. However, lately there have not been much talk on these two issues but it was only till very recently when the so-called lack of gas supply and pressure came back to haunt the industry again.
According to reports some primary textile mills in the industrial belt in Gazipur are in fear of losing export-oriented work orders and sales ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr due to a disruption in production caused by low gas pressure even as the gas pressure at more than 60 spinning, dyeing, finishing, printing and weaving mills in Madhabkhola, Sreepur, Baniachala, Bhabanipur and Gazipur went down to three pounds per square inch (PSI) instead of the required 15 PSI. Many of these units are engaged in producing raw materials for export-oriented garment factories and local markets.
“The affected mills have been unable to operate in full swing for many months now. As a result, many cannot execute work orders on time,” underlined the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) in a statement, adding, “If low gas pressure continues, paying the workers’ wages will be difficult for owners.”
Not so long ago, there was an article on the website of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) which underlined how the current (newly-elected) BGMEA President Faruque Hassan once found himself in a sticky wicket when his garment factory could not complete the orders. He still had 20 per cent job to finish, but frequent power cuts and low gas pressure had eaten up his shipment time. Worst still, his buyer would not accept any partial shipment — they wanted the whole lot in one go.
In the end, Faruque, Owner of Shafi Processing Industries Ltd., sorted out his trouble in a costly way. He chartered a flight and sent his apparels, for which he had to reportedly pay around Taka 6.5 crore from his pocket as airfreight even as the article maintained that Faruque’s case is all too similar to many garment owners today as power cuts have turned frequent, and as gas pressure dipped, machines remain silent for hours in factories.
Meanwhile, the issue of acute gas crisis has continued to severely impact production in textile and garment factories not only in Narayanganj and Narsingdi but also in the country’s largest industrial belt of Gazipur and Maona even as factory owners in the latter two said they have been losing production and incurring financial losses for over six months.
Yesterday the gas pressure was so low in some places that production had been put on hold; in places where the pressure was a little bit high, factories could not run in full swing, claimed industry insiders even as reports are doing rounds that around 500 textile, spinning, dyeing, finishing and weaving mills have been impacted in the industrial belts of Narayanganj, Narsingdi, Madhabdi, Maona, Bhabanipur and Kanchpur even if the plight of around 100 came to the fore, primarily because they were members of Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) and were the bigger gas consumers.
As per reports, all of these units are subscribers of the state-owned Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company. The gas supply is critical for production since the industrial and commercial energy users convert it to generate captive power for their own energy consumption.
“I could not run my factory since Tuesday night as the gas pressure varies between 1 to 1.5 pounds per square inch (PSI) rather than the required 15 PSI,” claimed Fazlul Hoque, Managing Director of Ishraq Spinning Mill, adding, “Despite having low pressure, I managed to produce 60 tonnes to 70 tonnes every day over the last few months. But from Tuesday night my mill has remained almost idle as the pressure is too low now.”
The owner of the Maona-based factory in Gazipur, Fazlul Hoque, further added he was capable of producing 125 tonnes of yarn a day had the supply of gas been normal.
My buyers are putting pressure on me for delivering the yarn on time as they will also have to make timely shipment of goods, otherwise they will face work order cancellations and expensive air shipments, explained the situation Fazlul even as Mosharaf Hossain, Chairman and Managing Director of Mosharaf Group, has reportedly been making do with producing 50 tonnes to 60 tonnes of yarn a day instead of the usual 130 tonnes under normal gas pressure.
The group has composite facilities at Bhabanipur in Gazipur comprising spinning, dyeing and garment production units. “So, every day, I have been losing money and my buyers are putting pressure on me for quick delivery of goods,” he said while adding that his Taka 1,600 crore investment in his composite mill and 10,000 workers would fall in jeopardy if the factories could not be run in full swing.
Similar views were also shared by Azahar Khan, Chairman of Mithela Textile Industries based at Araihazar in Narayanganj, and Saleudh Zaman, Managing Director of NZ Textiles, a spinning mill at Bhulta in Narayanganj, both of whom claimed to be facing an acute gas crisis in their production units since 13 March even as Azahar said he was capable of exporting US $ 10 million worth of goods from his mills and factories every month. “I also run my mills with rice husk as it is a green factory and I can save 68 per cent of energy. But since it is not the season of rice husking, the old stock of husk has been used up over the past one month,” Azahar said, adding, “So I am in very big trouble now,” even as the President of the BTMA, Mohammad Ali Khokon, on his part maintained, “This is gross negligence of the Titas; this state-owned company has not been addressing concerns despite repeated assurances over smooth supply of gas to the production units in those industrial belts. Even today the BTMA sent a letter to the Titas demanding fixing the gas problem as soon as possible. But action is yet to be taken by the Titas.”
It may be mentioned here that in a letter on 7 April, the BTMA urged state-run Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company to supply gas with adequate pressure to some mills in Madhabkhola, Sreepur, Baniachala, Bhabanipur, and Gazipur. However, the gas pressure in these areas has deteriorated rather than improve, the statement said while adding that production at mills and factories in the areas has declined by 75 per cent because of falling gas pressure and, if the mills can’t run properly, there is a possibility of a liquidity crisis at the factories as their business has also declined, the BTMA added.
Every day over the last few months the members of the BTMA have been posting complaints with the association as they are facing losses due to the gas crisis which has severely affected productivity, said the BTMA President even as Ali Iqbal Mohammad Nurullah, Managing Director of the Titas reportedly said, “I hope the problem will be solved soon. I hope for the best,” while speaking to a news daily over phone.
Now, considering the fallouts of the Coronavirus pandemic, which is continuing still, the industry is stretched to the limit and the issues related to gas is only going to aggravate the industry’s problems further. In the given situation, all one can hope is a solution could be reached at soon before things turn for worse.