Representatives of 65 international retailers, who source garments from Bangladeshi factories, yesterday demanded an immediate solution to the current political crisis, saying the ongoing blockade is interrupting their supply chain.
The retailers and brands expressed the concern at the regular “buyer forum meeting” at Westin Hotel in Dhaka.
“Usually, during this time of the year we discuss with the buyers the future growth plan of garment exports from Bangladesh,” Atiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, told The Daily Star after the meeting.
“But, now we are discussing how we will cope with the bad situation that stemmed from the political crisis.”
The retailers also demanded the government keep the Dhaka-Chittagong highway free from political violence for the sake of a smooth supply chain, Islam said.
He said the retailers who attended the meeting yesterday purchase garments worth $22 billion from Bangladesh a year — out of the total $25 billion worth of garment exports a year.
“So, the importance of the meeting cannot be denied,” Islam said.
Leading brands that sent representatives to the meeting include Walmart, Gap, JC Penney, C&A, Tesco, G-Star, H&M, Target, Inditex and Carrefour.
“The domestic political crisis started at a time when we successfully sent the message to the global retailers that Bangladesh is back to the business after the Tazreen and Rana Plaza incidents,” Islam said.
According to an assessment by the BGMEA, 19 garment factories have lost $19.02 million worth of business in 18 days of blockades and shutdowns. The companies incurred losses mainly due to orders cancellation, discount and expensive air shipment of goods.
Due to political violence, garment makers or their representatives are travelling to Hong Kong, China, India, Thailand and European nations, spending thousands of dollars, to attend meetings with buyers that were initially planned to take place in Dhaka.
Until now the buyers did not pull out of contracts, but they have warned that they will do so if the political crisis lingers, Islam said.
The buyers also said Bangladesh will face an image crisis again if the political impasse continues for long, the BGMEA chief added.
Buyers and their representatives declined to comment after the meeting.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said the buyers wanted to know about the latest situation in politics. “I told the buyers that there is nothing to be worried as the supply chain between Dhaka and Chittagong is still working very well,” Ahmed told reporters after the meeting.
“I assured the buyers that the situation will improve very soon,” Ahmed said.