Leather sector needs a facelift

Improved compliance crucial for global competitiveness, experts say

Staff Correspondent

14 July, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Speakers at a webinar on Tuesday stressed the need for improving compliance in the leather industries to make the sector more competitive in the global market.

They also stressed the need for forming a task force to look at the recommendations from different stakeholders and work on the betterment of the sector as well as improving rawhide management in an integrated way.

They also advocated for modernizing and making the Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) more functional in Savar through addressing its loopholes, improving solid waste management, addressing the environmental and labour rights issues in the sector and thus manufacturing quality products and providing the same facilities to all other sectors that the RMG sector is now enjoying.

They came up with the remarks at a webinar titled ‘Reviving the leather sector in the aftermath of Covid-19’, jointly organized by the Economic Reporters’ Forum (ERF), Research Policy Integration for Development (RAPID) and The Asia Foundation (TAF).

Prime Minister's Private Industry and Investment Affairs Adviser Salman F Rahman, Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh, Chairman of Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leather Goods and Footwear Exporters Association (BFLLFEA) Mohiuddin Ahmed Mahin, Bangladesh Tanners Association (BTA) Chairman Md ShaheenAhamed, Professor and Director, DU’s Institute of Leather Engineering & Technology Dr. M Mizanur Rahman, Managing Director of Dhaka Tannery Industrial Estate Waste Treatment Plant Company Ltd (DTIEWTPCL) (TIED) Brig. Gen. M Zahid Hasan and Tannery Workers’ Union president Abul Kalam Azad spoke at the programme with ERF President Sharmeen Rinvy in the chair.

Salman F Rahman stressed the need for ensuring full value chain compliance in the leather industry starting from livestock, processing of leather to the manufacturing of finished goods.

Referring to the recent tragic fire incident in Sajeeb Group (Hashem Foods factory) in Narayanganj that left more than 52 workers dead, he said that the government is in a serious problem regarding compliance in local industries. The commerce secretary said that the leather industries should produce quality products by addressing the environmental and labour rights issues.

Syed Manzur Elahi suggested forming a task force in the leather sector to look at the recommendations from different stakeholders and work on the betterment of the leather sector as well as giving due priority to making the CETP in Savar fully functional as per the standard of the Leather Working Group (LWG).

Noting that there will be no business if there is no compliance, he said that there is a lot of potentials in this sector with available technologies through which Bangladesh could move forward further like South Korea and Thailand.

Brig Gen M Zahid Hasan said that they are confident and optimistic to overcome all the challenges facing the sector with the support of all stakeholders.

UNIDO Country Representative Zaki Uz-Zaman said they are very much interested to work in the leather sector in Bangladesh.

BFLLFEA Chairman Mohiuddin Ahmed Mahin said that if their former tannery factory areas in Hazaribagh is made free with sincere efforts from RAJUK, then they would be able to repay their bank loans.

BTA Chairman Md Shaheen Ahamed said that the allocation of loans from the state-owned commercial banks is insufficient for procuring rawhides while the rawhide management should be further improved with the integrated approach from the Ministry of Industries, Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock.

Dr Md Mizanur Rahman suggested making the CETP fully functional in Savar and ensuring solid waste management, and taking steps for properly preserving rawhides.

Abul Kamal Azad suggested moving forward with a holistic approach and looking into the reasons why local raw materials could not be used largely in the industries.

Prof Razzaque in his presentation suggested devising a five-year plan including a clearly articulated accountability framework to revive the leather sector, achieve LWG certification, build brand image and adopt international best practices.

He also said there should be a targeted policy to increase FDI flow in the tannery sector so that it attracts renowned global brands.

Syed Nasim Manzur in his presentation suggested ensuring alignment with LWG protocols, offering customized financial exit for eligible tannery owners so that those who remain may grow and serious new entrants can invest.