Bangladesh garment makers move virus gloom into boom

07 Aug 2020 1:20 PM
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Facing ruin as orders from Western brands collapsed in the coronavirus pandemic, many Bangladeshi garment factories have been given a lifeline with orders to create shielding masks, gloves and gowns for export.

Nonetheless, thousands of workers who employed to work on export-oriented apparel factories on the South Asian country remain jobless.

At factories in Savar only north of Dhaka, thousands of workers are working eight-hour shifts, six times a week, making personal protective devices (PPE).

“We saw the ability in February and immediately we switched to PPE manufacturing,” said Syed Naved Husain, leader of Beximco, a significant supplier to the owners of makes such as for example Zara and Calvin Klein.

Beximco previous month exported 6.5 million medical gowns to US brand Hanes and it expects to export some $250 million worth of protective gear this year.

“Now lots of 60 percent of our 40,000 staff are involved in PPE making,” he said. “Coronavirus has evolved the world.”

Sumaiya Akter and Rubel Miah, who shed their jobs building apparel for Western stores, were among the staff making last amendments to the robes.

“I feel lucky for getting work in this factory even though many others lost careers and are now facing problems,” 34-year-old mother Akhter said. “At least I could feed my children and parents.”

Bangladesh over the past two decades became the world’s second-largest ready-manufactured garment exporter after China, making garments for famous brands Primark and H&M.

Prior to the pandemic, it accounted for about 80 percent of the country’s $40 billion gross annual exports and employed more than four million people, most of them women from poor rural villages.

However when the world started to get into lockdown, shipments plunge by an astounding 84 percent found in April.

About $3.2 million of orders were either canceled or withheld, in line with the Bangladesh Garment Producers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

The resumption of work in Bangladesh - which is reeling from its own COVID-19 outbreak - means extra safety precautions.One factory owner said, however, that “distancing is nearly impossible found in the factories due to the nature of the work.”

Nowadays, the BGMEA said, many producers were becoming hopeful once again as they pivot toward medical wear.

At least 30 factories have started manufacturing PPE since the start of the pandemic and the “quantity keeps growing,” Shuvo said.