‘Exports on March 20 were down by 54 percent compared to the same day last year.’ - Rubana Huq, BGMEA president
State Minister of Labour and Employment Monnujan Sufian said Bangladesh's factories will not be closed despite the state of coronavirus in the country.
Monnujan stated this during a meeting with business leaders in the capital's Srama Bhaban, on Saturday, amid worldwide concern over the spread of coronavirus – with many countries shutting down factories, trade and businesses.
The labour and employment state minister however said the decision would be made after consulting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Monnujan sat with trade union leaders at 4pm today in the Srama Bhaban to discuss how to combat the spread of coronavirus.
She said the situation of coronavirus in Dhaka and Chattogram's garment factories remains under control.
"The crisis will continue for at least five months. So, we have to think about how the situation can be tackled for this long. Also, we will have to apply pressure on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to consider the situation in Bangladesh," Monnujan said.
The state minister also said the ILO ignored the demands of owners when they asked the organisation to increase product prices. "Now, they are not working for our labourers."
Meanwhile, leaders of the factory owners' association demanded that the government allocate funds to enable them to tackle the ongoing situation. They also claimed they will ensure the health safety of labourers.
Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said they have been counting losses every moment as buyers have cancelled almost all their orders.
"We have already provided some shipments but it will take a long time to get money from the buyers," she said.
"We have been passing a crucial time, and overall business is not going well at all," she added.
Rubana further said the country's 216 factories have counted $505 million in losses in the last 16 hours.
"Exports on March 18 were down by 42 percent, compared to the same day last year, and on March 20 were down by 54 percent compared to the same day last year," she added.
Rubana emphasised the need for combined efforts to keep ready-made garment factories operational.
Former BGMEA president Siddiqur Rahman said the government has no capacity to address the problem as quickly as China did. So, the garment sector needs the government's help.
"The government should take away some money from mega projects and collect donations from national and international organisations for the garment sector. Otherwise, it will be difficult for us to tackle the hard days ahead," he said.
Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters' Association President Salim Osman, and
Leather Goods and Footwear Manufacturers' and Exporters' Association of Bangladesh President Saiful Islam, among others, were also present at the Srama Bhaban meeting.
Bangladesh, on Saturday, announced its second death from the novel coronavirus in the country. Four patients were newly-diagnosed with the virus, bringing the total number of corona cases in Bangladesh to 24. The first death from the virus was reported on March 18.