Despite a rise in prices of raw materials, including dye and yarn, the price of the clothes did not rise at the same rate
Within a very short period, weaver Abdul Halim had to sell off all five of his handlooms as losses kept mounting.
Halim, a resident of Jalalpur Natunpara in Pabna, is now working as an assistant to a bricklayer, barely managing to provide two meals a day to his family members.
The story of weaver Abdus Salam, from the same village, is even worse. Salam had set up 10 handlooms, using the money earned from selling off his land.
Although the price of the land he sold has now increased threefold, Salam is almost penniless.
As continuous losses drive the villagers away from their traditional profession, the weaving industry at Pabna is at risk of disappearing.
However, just a few years ago, a major portion of Bangladesh's demand for garments was met by the weavers' village.
The weaving industry, which has been an integral part of the district's history and heritage, is now on the verge of collapse.
Despite a rise in prices of raw materials, including dye and yarn, the price of the clothes did not rise at the same rate.
The once popular BT sarees, Sandhya Rani sarees, cotton sarees and coarse sarees from Dogachi, Pabna are no longer in production as they failed to compete with the three pieces and printed sarees.
Many owners of the handlooms have lost all they had and are now working at lungi factories.
Several lakh people in nine upazilas in the district are dependent on the now threatened industry. Ataikula Haat which was once famous for Pabna handloom clothes, has now lost its past glory.
A vast area, including four villages in Dogachi union in Pabna Sadar upazila, four villages in Goyeshpur union, 10 villages in Atghoria upazila, two in Santhia upazila and four villages in Sujanagar upazila, was once lush with weaving.
One could hear the sounds of handlooms running from dawn to late in the night in these areas.
Local people said, sarees, lungi and loin clothes (thaan) produced in these areas were sold at different haats including Ataikula, Shahjadpur, Poradah, Baburhat in Narsingdi, Karotia in Tangail and other open air markets across Bangladesh.
Alongside male workers, women were also involved in all eight stages of weaving.
But, as the price of yarn, dye and chemicals went up abnormally over last several years, weavers started losing money.
Abdul Karim, owner of a handloom factory in Natunpara said, "There were 10 handlooms in my factory. Earlier, I would make Tk15 profit by selling one lungi produced in my factory, but now it has become difficult for even meeting production costs, let alone make profit.
Speaking to The Business Standard, Pabna Handloom Association President Ayub Ali said that in the last one year, the price of 80 count yarn increased to Tk300 per pound from Tk135.
"The price of 62 count yarn has risen to Tk250 from Tk95. As a result the production cost for the weavers have increased two to threefold. The price of clothes in the market has not increased at the same rate."
Ayub Ali held the spinning mill owners responsible for this situation, claiming that those involved in the handloom industry have become hostage to spinning mill owners.
"They have been increasing yarn prices without any reason which have been affecting the weavers."
At present, market weavers have to invest Tk7 lakh to Tk8 lakh to run 10 pit looms – a sum which they find difficult to recover.
ABM Fazlur Rahman, director of Pabna Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the good days of the handloom industry can be brought back if the government forms a bank to provide loans at low interest rates to the weavers, along with creating a scope for direct export.
Jewel Chandra Paul, Bangladesh Handloom Board's liaison officer at Pabna said, at present there are about 35,000 handlooms in Pabna district.
In most of the cases, the small and terminal weavers are financially insolvent and take loans from loan sharks.
Facing pressure from the money lenders to pay back the loans quickly the weavers are compelled to sell their products at prices lower than the production cost.
Jewel also said the government has taken various steps to restore the lost glory of the handloom industry.
"The Handloom Board has arranged small loans for the weavers. In Pabna the Handloom Board has given loans worth Tk10,000 to Tk15,000 to each of the 35,000 weavers," he said.