Steps to improve the

Export Oriented Textile and RMG Sector

 

Dr. Md. Mahbubul Haque


 

Introduction

Bangladesh is one of the leading exporters of ready-made garments in the world and earning nearly 76% of its foreign currency through exporting textiles and ready-made garments. We mainly produce and export two types of textile products e.g. woven and knit goods produced from woven fabric and knit fabric respectively. Presently, almost 100% export oriented knitted fabrics are being produced in the country while more than 60% of the export oriented woven fabric is imported resulting in drainage of huge amount of foreign currency. Apart from woven fabric, we have to import 100% of dyes, chemicals, spare parts and machinery. In recent years, the garment business became very volatile. Some of these problems are worker unrest for low salary for which manufacturers have problem in meeting schedule, import of Indian yarns and competing with other South East Asian countries. At present Vietnam is offering the most competitive garment price in the world. Though, like Bangladesh, Vietnam also imports cotton from other countries and the labor cost in Vietnam is more than that of Bangladesh. They must have established some ways to minimize the cost in order to be competitive in the world market. So it is very clear that, to sustain in the business in world market on a long term basis, Bangladesh should improve its export oriented textile and RMG sector (EOTRS). Some of the following suggestions were put forward to improve the overall performance of the textiles and RMG sector of Bangladesh.

 

Development of Research & Development (R & D) Facility

Most of our competitor countries have very well established textiles and RMG research facilities. An R & D facility can contribute to the following main aspects
(i) By R & D, it is possible to find ways to reduce waste and cost of production to maximize profit.
(ii) Increase productivity by improving process performance and product quality.
(iii) New product, market and business ideas can be investigated for further expansion.
(iv) Generation of tax revenue due to maximization of profit.
(v) Monitor and control textile RMG business at national level,
(vi) Safeguard and secure our business interest at international level.

In many cases we are not able to manufacture certain specialty fabric or quality of some of our woven or knitted products are not up to the buyer's requirements. As a consequence we have to import those specialty fabrics. In such cases the proposed R & D center can do some research on those special products and help the manufacturer to produce them. This type of capability is required in all fields of textile manufacturing. It is also essential to standardize or calibrate our own processing capability in order to estimate minimum waste to be generated. This information is important because if manufacturers know their waste % and manufacturing cost as well as their corresponding standard values then it becomes very easier for them to decide whether they need to improve their processing further or not. Also it will indicate if our manufacturing cost is competitive with competing countries. An R & D centre is also very useful to help business owners by providing ideas about product diversification, development of new products and markets as well.


The following is a demonstration of how the R & D can contribute to the cost of a garment. Every textile product has two major cost components; (a) Raw materials cost and (b) Conversion cost. Through Effective R & D it is possible to achieve contribution from R & D to (i) to (iii) mentioned above and it will be possible to reduce the conversion cost.


The cost of fabric of a garment is nearly 50-60% of its total cost. If we can reduce the conversion cost at each stage i.e. in spinning, weaving, knitting, dyeing printing and finishing, then we will be able to reduce the cost of fabric and the finished garment.
 


Who Can Conduct R & D?

Individual Industries: R & D facility could be set up by industries themselves in order to get maximum benefit by evaluating own problems and implement the result in a short period of time. But the overhead cost is very high and only very large organization can afford that.

Business associations like BTMA, BGMEA & BKMEA: R & D would be very cost effective if a group of organizations like BTMA, BGMEA & BKMEA set up a facility and finance all the research work to solve the problems faced by the industry.

Government: Since the Government receive huge amount of money from this sector in the form of tax and vats. To make this sector more productive, Government could help to develop and manage an R & D facility. Since it would take significant amount of time in planning and development. Presently, it is possible to use facilities like National Institute of Textile Training Research and Design and Bangladesh Jute Research Institute if equipped with some additional equipment for conducting textile research.

Universities: Universities like College of Textile Engineering at Tejgaon, Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology (AUST) etc could also make some contribution by doing the research work using the expertise of experience professors if the fund is provided by either Government or industries. These places are equipped with state of art and world class textile laboratory instruments. It also helps creating more knowledgeable and experienced working force who could contribute a lot while serving these industries.

 

Add More Value to our Products

Value addition is one of the best ways to maximize profit. Value addition means increasing sales value. There are various ways by which value can be added to a product. If we consider two different shirts both of same size and produced from similar raw materials but may be sold in the markets with substantial difference in prices. The reason could be one of many e.g. brand, quality control, dyeing or finishing processes used, special finishes like moth proof or fire proof, attribution of art works like embroidery and attachments etc. Since we have comparatively cheap labor and electricity available in Bangladesh we should consider those products which involve more labor and can add more value to a product.


 

Different types of apparel products require different types of manufacturing infrastructures. If the infrastructure for making shirts could be used to produce suits, it would also be a kind of value addition to the infrastructure. In fact, during production, the higher the processing steps required by the customers, the higher would be the value addition. Some of the high value added products are costly products like high quality sports wear, shirts, suits, jackets etc. An organized R & D can precisely help in attributing value addition as well as finding value added new products and markets. Presently, Bangladesh is mainly producing cheaper textile and apparel products. By R & D it will be possible to say which products will maximize profit and accordingly the marketing and merchandising people of the factories can be guided to target those products.

 

Product Diversification

Study of export patterns suggests that Bangladesh is mainly manufacturing garments items made from 100% cotton fiber. Bangladeshi spinning mills produces nearly 90% cottons yarns and only 10% blended yarns, but the global scenario is quite different. China produces the cotton products is only one third of its total volume of export. Similar trend is found in our competitor countries like Pakistan and India. Also, in Bangladesh, the volume of export of apparel products is also very low in comparison to that of non apparel products like bed sheets, bed covers, pillow cases, pillow covers, towels, quilts, curtains etc.


Only 33% apparels are produced from 100% cotton fiber and rest of the apparels are produced from synthetic and other fibers. Bangladesh is mainly concentrating on 33% share of the world's apparel market and does not have any share in the rest 67% synthetic apparel market. Small amount of blended apparels are being exported from Bangladesh but the raw materials, like fabric are imported since quality of the local polyester yarn is not up to the mark. Only several factories are producing synthetic polyester filament yarns and these yarns are consumed locally. Further research and expertise is required to add value to the existing polyester fibers. Bangladesh should seriously think about increasing its activities in the field of synthetic apparel market to have more growth in textile sector and maximize the profit.

 

Develop our Synthetic Capability

As was earlier mentioned, 67% of the world's apparels are produced from synthetic fiber known as Man Made Fibers (MMF). In Bangladesh, we only manufacture 100% cotton products. If we can manufacture synthetic fibers as well as dyes and chemical in our country then we will be able to produce woven fabrics locally at much cheaper costs. Synthetic yarns provide better yield and productivity. The cost will further decrease if we can manufacture our own accessories for main machines.


Study of the export pattern of some Asian countries shows some interesting discrepancy between the strategy of textile export of Bangladesh and other countries particularly China, the leader in textile export. The quantity of non-apparel export of all the surveyed Asian countries is almost double of that of apparel export. The volume of Non-apparel export from Bangladesh is also very low in comparison to China and other Asian countries. Therefore Bangladesh should try to explore its non-apparel market.


The export pattern of 100% cotton and MMF products to the US market in the year 2006 shows that export of China's non apparel products is exceptionally higher than apparel export. The scenario is exactly opposite for Bangladesh, i.e. quantity of apparel export is much larger than that of non apparel products. Bangladesh should try to explore its MMF market to have greater access to textile business. MMF is also environmental friendly.

 

Need to Develop Woven Sector

At present, nearly 60% of the export oriented woven fabrics are imported. The woven production has some advantages as well as disadvantages over knit production. The advantages are (i) very vast market, (ii) woven products are value added pro-ducts and costly so that profit margin is better than knit garments. The disadvantages of woven products are (i) production, dyeing printing and finishing of woven fabric require lot more expertise and experts than required in the knit fabric manufacturing (ii) cost of weaving plants are much higher than that of knitting plants.


But there is enormous opportunity for woven sector as there is a huge demand in local export oriented garment factories. The garment manufacturers will definitely prefer local fabrics in order to avoid the problems with the overseas fabric sup-pliers and to minimize production time. Unfortunately very few entrepreneurs are interested to invest on this vast market. Woven factories are relatively more profitable industry due to the demand in world market. In china, most of the big garment manufacturers have their own weaving and in some cases spinning facility. In case of woven fabric different types machines are used to make certain quality of fabric. If the garment factory owners have their own weaving facility then participating in world market becomes relatively easier as the marketing people knows very well what type of fabric they needed to produce to fulfill the demand Therefore it is strongly recommended that if possible the garment manufacturers should develop their own weaving facility themselves.


Developing the weaving sector not only our foreign currency retention will be increased as well as our garment business will be better secured. Import of fabric for export market is not a healthy for business as are too many risks associated with this; e.g. (i) lead time is very high, (ii) if the imported fabric is too much defective or of any sort of mismatching arises, then there is no way of compensation in such short period of time. If import of woven fabric is disrupted, the garment business will collapsed in overnight loosing lots of money and leaving millions of garments workers jobless. To avoid this kind of uncertainties and garment manufacturer imports certain excess fabric. It is quite uncertain whether additional fabric will be required or not. Cost of additional fabric definitely is included in the cost of garment. If the fabric is produced locally, this kind of uncertainty can be handled efficiently.


If the export oriented woven sector is developed, we could export woven fabrics. There is also a big advantage of having strong woven sector in the domestic apparel market because huge amount of fabrics as well as garments are imported for our local consumption. If local woven sector is developed, the amount of domestic import of fabric and garment will be less.


Due to some reasons, the woven sector could not flourish well. Some of these reasons and their remedies are discussed below.

i. Very high initial investment: Woven projects are associated with very high investment, only large entrepreneurs are interested in woven projects. Government can encourage entrepreneurs by providing advantages like soft loans, tax holidays, tax free import of machinery etc. Other sectors like spinning, dyeing printing and finishing and garment manufacturing sectors should not be comparable with this sector. This is required to manufacture woven fabric locally at lower price so that the cost of garments will be decreased and profit will be increased.

ii. Introduce blend processing: The main requirement of yarn for weaving is its strength. During weaving the yarns are subjected to various types of stretching forces. To counteract these forces yarns are sized. Yarn breaks during weaving due to low strength. Bangladesh processes 100% cotton yarns whose strength is much lower than blended yarns. Blended yarns are produced by mixing cotton and synthetic fiber like polyester.

iii. Special Woven market:
Weaving and woven dyeing need special type of marketing. The variety of woven fabric is large in comparison to the knitted fabric. Due to continuous change of fashion and quality, particulars of woven fabric changes on a continuous basis. If the Garment manufacturers themselves set up woven and woven dyeing factories, the aspect of fashion change can be managed efficiently. In China, most of the garment manufacturers have their own woven factories.

iv. Proper R & D may be helpful: One of the important problems faced by many weaving factories is the sample development. A well organized R & D center will be very helpful in developing samples as well as improving quality. A separate institute can be set up to deal with R & D and training on weaving and woven sector.

In-service Training

i. Training for the operator: BGMEA could run several training centers where the fresh operators will be trained up to get satisfactory performance by hiring some highly skilled instructors. BGMEA factories can recruit these people with confidence.

ii. In-service training for the freshly recruited technical personnel: Apart from the operators, export oriented textile and garment factories recruit various types of technical people having qualifications like diploma and degrees. These freshly recruited experts should be trained by skilled personnel (of the relevant field). At present none of the training institutes in Bangladesh have this type of in-service training facility. Therefore a separate training institute can be set up to train freshly recruited graduates as well as in-service training necessary for improving performance.

 

Production of Viscose Can be a Breakthrough in our Export Oriented Textile and RMG Sector.

Every year Bangladeshi spinning mills import cotton fiber worth billions of dollars and also the local consumption is also very high (nearly 14 crore Kg). It would be breakthrough, if viscose rayon can be developed and added to our export oriented textile and RMG sector. In the past, Bangladesh used to produce viscose rayon in the Karnaphuly rayon mills Ltd. at Chittagong. But at that time the quality of viscose fiber was not very good. Over the years, technology has improved a lot, now viscose has lot of advantages over cotton fiber. It would be profitable if Textile and RMG sector think seriously about producing viscose rayon.

 

Develop Local Dye & Chemical Manufacturing Facility

The cost of dyes and chemicals that are incurred in textile processing plants are substantial. We do not have any dyes, chemicals and auxiliaries manufacturing facility in Bangladesh therefore we have to import them using foreign currency. Therefore we should develop our own manufacturing facility to reduce our cost of production.

 

Develop Facility for Machinery & Spare Parts.

Most of our competitors like China, India and Pakistan manufacture their own spare parts as well as some machinery. In general, Bangladesh does not produce any spare parts at all machinery except simple weaving machines like shuttle loom.. Bangladesh is heavily involved with textile business; manufacturing of textile machinery could be a very big and profitable industrial sector.

 

Bank Interest Rates Should be Lower.

If the bank interest rate is lower like other developing countries, it could be a big incentive for increasing industrial growth.

 

Access to the Import Data.

Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) maintains a details list of products exported from Bangladesh. Similarly a detail list of imported items may be developed and made available when needed. This will be helpful in attracting investors (both local and overseas).. Investment on production of products that are on top of the list will perhaps attract lot of investors; also the risk of marketing will be less.

 

Conclusion

All the concerned authorities may carefully examine the suggestions that are made here. The benefits of the all the suggestions particularly R & D may not be visible in short period of time. Some of them may take even years to get the benefits. In the international market, we cannot play too much with the sales prices of our textile commodities; it is the cost of production where we can play. It seems that by implementing the above suggestions and recommendations we will be able to reduce the cost of fabric and garment.
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