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Coronavirus poses serious threat to Rajshahi’s silk industry

The prolonged novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic situation has been posing a serious threat to the existence of the traditional silk industry in Rajshahi.

Businessmen and entrepreneurs are facing an awkward position with their business in wake of abnormal declining production side by side with selling of the products at present.

Jahirul Islam, manager of Usha Silk Industries, said the silk business is almost remained existed centering the festivals of Pahela Boishakh and the two Eids but the pandemic situation has brought devastation to the business during the festivals.

“Our sales are higher during Pohela Boishakh and the two Eids. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, we’re unable to sell on the festivals. The estimated loss of that period is around Taka 50 lakh.”

“In every Eid, usually we sell products of around a few lakhs but this time we hardly sold products of Taka 50,000,” he added.

“We have already incurred losses worth around Taka two crore due to the fallout,” he said, adding that survival of business will be very difficult if this situation prolongs furthermore.

Rajshahi Sopura Silk Industries has been producing and selling silk attire since 1979 through making silk yarn and cloth from the yarn. In line with producing yarn, they import other raw materials from China to make silk attire.

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.

Bangladesh Sericulture Development Board (BSDB), state-owned entity of promoting the country’s silk sector, is also running amid financial and manpower crises. They can meet up the least demand for the country’s silk products. Rather, the private factories are meeting the demand.

Taking yarns from 12 mini-filatures under BSDB across the country, cloths are produced in the factories. The manufactured clothes are displayed in the BSDB’s showrooms.

After being off for a long time, 38 looms at Rajshahi silk factories have been repaired for running again.

BSDB Director General Abdul Hakim said 4,770 metres of cloths were produced using the yarns from the 12 mini-filatures in the 2019-2020 fiscal year. The factories produced 400 metres of cloth in July last despite the pandemic situation.

Factory Manager Abul Kalam Azad said after producing clothes with the yarns of 12 mini-filatures, these are sold through the BSDB’s showrooms.

Liakat Ali, President of Bangladesh Silk Industries Owners Association, said the silk industry functions 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 region.

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 Taka 300 crore, Liakat said.