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Friday, April 24, 2009

Shine off ceramics exports

The Daily Star

Local ceramic tableware makers feel the pinch of the global financial crisis, as exports have plummeted over the last few months.

Bangladesh exported ceramic tableware worth $23.66 million, 23 percent lower than the $30.68 million target for the July-February period of the current fiscal year, according to data from exporters and the Export Promotion Bureau. The export figure was $25.09 million for the same period in fiscal 2007-08.

The export target for the current fiscal year has been set close to $48 million.

“We are not getting new orders at the moment. Buyers seem reluctant to place orders," said Iftakher Uddin Farhad, chairman and managing director of FARR Ceramics Ltd, which exported products worth Tk 20 crore ($2.9 million) in 2008.

For Farhad, an Italian buyer was the latest to cancel his orders.

According to market players, about 60 ceramic factories have invested more than Tk 2,000 crore in the sector, which mainly produces tableware and tiles.

After meeting domestic demand, the industry exports to 50 countries, including the United States, Canada, Europe and Middle East.

Bangladesh Ceramic Ware Manufacturers' Association data shows domestic sales were around Tk 700 crore in 2008.

Despite all odds, the country's ceramic tableware market has a bright prospect because of an increasing demand from the developed countries in Europe and the US, where the production cost of the item has significantly increased due to high labour costs.

Bangladesh enjoys competitive labour costs and workers have been well trained, industry people said.

But exporters are worried about the slowing trend in exports because of the global recession.

The FARR Ceramics boss said his company's monthly export figure dropped to $2 lakh in the January-March period of 2009 from $3 lakh a year ago.

Shinepukur Ceramics Industries, the largest manufacturer in the country with a capacity to produce 2.4 crore pieces of tableware a year, is also facing a 30 percent reduction in export orders this year.

The company exported ceramic tableware worth Tk 150 crore in 2008, according to a senior official of the company.

Monno Ceramics Industries, which was set up in 1982 with a Tk 115 crore investment, also faces deteriorating export orders in the first quarter of 2009, said a top official of the company. Last year, Monno's export figures stood at Tk 80 crore.

Artisan Ceramics, which exported goods worth Tk 12 crore in 2008, is facing orders down by 40 percent so far this year, compared to last year.

According to the manufacturers' association, ceramic exports grew by 695 percent in the last decade.



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