The growing local ceramic industries which after meeting domestic demands are being exported to over 50 countries across the world is facing multifaceted problems that its export fell by 65 per cent in first six months of the running financial year (FY20).
Bangladesh Export Promotion Bureau in its latest statistics show that export during July-December of the running fiscal fell to $18 million which during corresponding month of the previous fiscal (FY19) was over $50 million that the export fell by over 64 per cent against the government set target of exporting $43.77 million for first half of FY20.
Buyers’ purchasing capacity slowdown in the export market and financial constraints to local manufacturers as well as to the exporters are among the causes of export slowdown which could be solved by the government’s positive steps.
Despite the sector’s recent market it is a hope that in the upcoming Tableware Fair which is designed to be held in Ambiente of Frankfurt from February 7 to February 11 this year, Bangladesh’s exporters are likely to bag a handsome amount of orders from international buyers which usually happens during the fair.
Ambiente Frankfurt is a dedicated trade fair encompassing the culture, art, and accessories. This event brings with it products like most important consumer goods trade fair brings, which boasts a globally unrivaled range of products in the dining, giving and living areas in the household consumables industry, accessories, fabrics, trims, seasonal decoration, crafts and artists’ requisites.
Currently our ceramic products exports destinations are to over 50 countries in Asia, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, North Africa and the Americas. Total investment in the sector amounts to more than USD 1 billion and more than half a million people are employed in this sector.
Investment taking place at people’s increasing purchase power capacity.
In household and in different office or commercial based building installation of different types of ceramic tiles and sanitary ware are on rise and its demand is increasing everyday.
Like in urban houses, people in rural areas are now also using tiles and modern sanitary wares for decorating their houses and offices and a larger numbers of trading based dealers are now engaged in marketing of the locally manufactured state of the art products that this change is boosting the sector locally along with rising export destinations.
Our few local brands are now of international standards though Bangladesh is still importing few items from China, Italy, Malaysia, India and from other countries due to their demands in few posh areas but new investments in Bangladesh in the coming days are capable to produce such products.
Local ceramic industry produces pottery, tiles, tableware, bricks, sanitary ware, electric insulators and other products that have become a part of our daily life. There is a high demand for ceramic products as people use ceramic items for their durability and decorative designs.
Manufacture of ceramic products in Bangladesh started in 1958 when Tajma Ceramic, a small manufacturing plant for porcelain tableware, was set up in Bogra. Currently, there are over 70 ceramic manufacturers in the country which produces different types of products.
The industry needs to import machinery, technology and raw materials as result manufacturers are facing a challenge to survive in the global market. Raw materials for this industry, including white clay, sand, pigments (dyes) and others are imported from different countries because we do not have sufficient raw materials. Some local raw materials are used only in the tiles industry.
As our lead time is higher and due to port congestion and complex process the importers as well as the exporters face different trouble which results costs of doing business and to boost up export market with competitive prices it is imperative to ease procedure in the customs and a strong cooperation is needed from the port and customs authority for releasing imported materials from the seaport as per scheduled time.
Though export is facing trouble now as it fell drastically which was only 0.17 per cent of Bangladesh’s overall exports of $40 billion last year, the market is likely to revive shortly and to tap the export opportunity it requires government’s different supports mainly making available cheaper loans, provide cash incentives and favourable exchange rates for the exporters.
The export destinations are rising every year and currently Bangladesh is exporting its products to Canada, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Germany, Sweden, Russia, Denmark, France, Mexico, Argentina, Turkey, India, Nepal and others and its industrial raw materials are being imported from China, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Spain and few other principal countries.
To speed up local production our factories need uninterrupted supply of natural gas, which is the main energy source for this sector and beside that infrastructural developments mainly in transportation system should also be improved.
Skill development and human resources for the ceramic industry the government need to monitor and support the exiting vocational training institutes and provide higher education among students related to ceramics sectors. In particular Bangladesh Institute of Glass and Ceramics, Department of Glass and Ceramic Engineering at BUET and Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology, and Faculty of Fine Arts at Dhaka University can provide an important role which is currently providing different courses on ceramics sector.
Ceramic industry is a highly potential and labour intensive sector which yearly production capacity is over 250 million pieces tableware, 200 million square meters tiles and 9 million pieces of sanitary ware and value addition in ceramics stands at over 65 per cent.
The ceramics industry which turned into a booming manufacturing sector in Bangladesh over the years, cashing in on growing demand both in domestic and international markets requires supports and once it is properly nurtured it may exceed $200 million export target within few years.
As the sector is labour intensive, products are of export substitute and earning foreign currency, it is imperative to take care of the sector along with other sectors like RMG, leather, pharmaceuticals.
Financial obstacles should be removed as currently the manufactures are facing for capital constraints to expand their existing units. They need to match their produces as par with other global higher brands.
The writer is a Managing Director of the Bridge Chemie and an expert in ceramics sector