The prolonged coronavirus pandemic has been posing a serious threat to the existence of the traditional silk industry in Rajshahi.
Businesspersons and entrepreneurs are struggling to keep their businesses in operation in the wake of abnormal decline in production and sales at present.
Jahirul Islam, manager of Usha Silk Industries, said that the silk business almost thrived centring the festivals of Pahela Boishakh and the two Eids but the pandemic had brought devastation to the business during the festivals this year.
‘Our sales are generally higher during Pohela Boishakh and the two Eids. Due to the COVID-19outbreak, we’re unable to sell on the festivals. The estimated loss in that period is around Tk 50 lakh.’
‘Every Eid, usually we sell products worth around a few lakhs but this time we hardly sold products worth Tk 50,000,’ he added.
‘We have already incurred losses worth around Tk 2 crore due to the fallout,’ he said, adding that the survival of the business would be very difficult if this situation prolongs.
Rajshahi Sopura Silk Industries has been producing and selling silk attires since 1979 through making silk yarn and cloth from the yarn. Alongside producing the yarn, they import other raw materials from China to make silk attires.
At present, the showrooms and factories have reopened but production and sales are frustrating.
‘The situation is similar for other silk producers. Many have been forced to close their factories. The emergence of the novel coronavirus has put the silk business in a survival crisis,’ he continued.
The Bangladesh Sericulture Development Board, the stateowned entity that promotes the country’s silk sector, is also running amid financial and manpower crises.
They can meet only the smallest demand for the country’s silk products with the private factories fulfilling the bulk of the demand.
Yarns from 12 mini-filatures under BSDB across the country are taken to factories were cloths are produced. The manufactured clothes are then displayed at BSDB’s showrooms.
After being out of operation for a long time, 38 looms at Rajshahi silk factories have been repaired for production again.
BSDB director general Abdul Hakim said that 4,770 metres of cloths were produced using the yarns from the 12 minifilatures in the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
The factories produced 400 metres of cloth in July last despite the pandemic.
Factory manager Abul Kalam Azad said that after producing cloths with the yarns from 12 mini-filatures, these are sold through BSDB’s showrooms.
Liakat Ali, president of Bangladesh Silk Industries Owners Association, said that the silk industry functioned in two stages. Yarn from insects is produced in one stage while cloths are manufactured from the yarns in another stage.
About 40,000 employees and labourers are engaged with this industry only in Rajshahi.
He also said thousands of labourers are engaged in yarn production. But these labourers have become jobless due to the coronavirus.
‘More than one lakh workers and employees are working across the country. However, in the current situation, this industry has fallen into a serious crisis,’ he said.
The extent of losses because of the outbreak of novel coronavirus in the silk industry across the country will be around Tk 300 crore, Liakat said.